By Marian Valanoski
For The Daily Item
COAL TOWNSHIP – Those doubters who believe that the “Coal Bucket” game becoming a meaningless matchup and has lost much of its luster did not see Friday night’s 2013 version of the annual backyard rivalry.
And, make no bones about it, the final score was in no way any indication of how close the game was at Kemp Memorial Stadium.
Mount Carmel Area (7-3) needed a 13-point outburst in the final seven minutes while the defense came up with two huge takeaways to help the Red Tornadoes hold off Shamokin (0-10), 21-0.
Yes, it was that close and the Indians looked nothing like a winless football team and the playoff-bound Red Tornadoes can thank its lucky stars for the ever-improving play of its defense, along with a few gadget plays, to head into the District 4 Class AA Tournament against Troy with a head of steam.
“I wouldn’t like to go up against a schedule of 0-9 teams like Shamokin Area,” Mount Carmel coach Carmen DeFrancesco said. “People who know nothing about this game and the rivalry between the two communities can’t appreciate just what ‘The Coal Bucket’ means to everyone involved and you can throw out the records when the two get together.”
The Red Tornadoes used a bit of trickery on their first offensive drive to get into scoring position when Dominic Farronato ran for 22 yards on a fake punt that gave Mount Carmel possession on the Indians’ 34. However, the visitors could not cash in because, on third down from the 15, John Demsko came up with a tipped pass in the end zone for Shamokin to end the threat.
Shamokin could find no running room against the stingy Mount Carmel defense and a short punt gave the visitors possession at their own 35 before the period ended with no score.
Mount Carmel used the passing arm of Zack Wasilewski to get into scoring position again when the senior hit Christian Kelley for a 30-yard pickup and a late hit tacked on 15 more yards to the 15.
Wasilewski picked up 17 yards on a quarterback draw but would lose 10 when Draven MIller sacked him for a 10-yard loss. However, three plays later he found Tyler Thompson wide open for a three-yard touchdown catch. Farronato hit Juwan Sullins for the two-point conversion when the Red Tornadoes faked kicking the ball and were able to take an 8-0 lead.
Shamokin avoided any further damage as the Indians were able to come up with two fumble recoveries, including one by Miller in the end zone to keep the score at 8-0.
“We squandered too many scoring opportunities in the first half,” DeFrancesco said.
The Indians played give-away in the third quarter by fumbling the ball but the Red Tornadoes could not find the right combination of plays to reach paydirt.
That all changed in the final eight minutes of the game.
After holding Mount Carmel on downs, Shamokin took to the air but Mike Gilger came up with a big interception that gave the Red Tornadoes the ball at the 10.
Wasilewski carried twice, including the final yard for the touchdown and it was 15-0 after Farronato’s conversion kick.
Kyle Karycki provided the second big defensive play when he a punt with the visitors recovering on the 2. One play later Blake Panko scored for the game’s final points.
“I heard coming in about the Coal Bucket Game, “ Indians first-year coach Yaacov Yisrael said. “It’s all that and much more.”