By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
HUGHESVILLE — Mount Carmel was a few ticks away from its postseason hopes possibly being dashed last week.
Joe Dormer made his first career varsity catch memorable, catching a 20-yard pass with 10 seconds left in a comeback win over North Schuylkill last week on a play that the Red Tornadoes practice frequently before games, according to Mount Carmel coach Carmen DeFrancesco.
“Our kids played hard on every play,” DeFrancesco said. “When they faced adversity with a couple of minutes left, we buckled our chinstraps. They performed admirably under extreme pressure.”
Mount Carmel will travel to Hughesville this week to face a winless yet dangerous Hughesville team in a Heartland Athletic Conference Division II contest. DeFrancesco acknowledged that any game late in the season against a struggling opponent can be difficult.
Mount Carmel (4-3, 2-2 HAC-II) comes into the matchup with Hughesville ((0-7, 0-4) on a two-game win streak in a critical point in the season, trying to clinch a playoff berth. Red Tornadoes quarterback Zach Wasilewski is coming off of arguably his best game of the season passing the ball, throwing for 215 yards and two scores in the dramatic win.
Hughesville coach Andy Brown was quick to note Wasilewski’s talent under center.
“Wasilewski is very talented,” Brown said. “(He is a) very experienced dual-threat quarterback. He runs the ball well and throws it well.”
Brown added that the shotgun offense out of which Mount Carmel operates could cause trouble for the Spartans.
“We’ll have to do a good job of defending the run and the pass,” Brown said.
The Red Tornadoes are in seventh place in the District 4 Class AA standings, currently holding a playoff spot but far from assuring a berth.
While Hughesville is a team currently searching for its first win, DeFrancesco insisted that his team will not be looking past the Spartans.
“You have to be careful with these games,” DeFrancesco said. “On paper, it’s a game we should win, but that’s why you play the game.”
DeFrancesco added that the Spartans are a better team than their record and have moved the ball against difficult opponents.
Last week, the Spartans scored a touchdown late against Loyalsock, holding Lancers dual-threat quarterback Kyle Datres to 109 yards passing in a 28-7 defeat.
Brown said that his team had chances in Loyalsock territory last week but were unable to convert, leading to the loss.
“We’ve been competitive with every team each week,” Brown said.
The Mount Carmel defense has increased its level of play over the past two weeks, holding Central Columbia scoreless in the second half and holding North Schuylkill to 13 points.
DeFrancesco said that the aggressive play of the defense will have to continue for the Red Tornadoes to beat Hughesville and stay on track for a playoff berth.
“In a game like this, we cannot turn the ball over,” DeFrancesco said. “If we go up there with a sense of purpose and focus for 48 minutes, we believe as a coaching staff (that) we can come out a win.”
DeFrancesco’s players focused last week to get a victory and he said that will help the team moving forward.
“We were under a pressure cooker and our kids really performed,” DeFrancesco said.