There were many times over the last few weeks when Line Mountain coach Brandon Carson was unsure if the Eagles would play this week, but Line Mountain found a willing opponent in Northwest Area, located between Berwick and Hazleton.
The Rangers should provide an interesting challenge for the Eagles.
“They are a big, physical football team,” Carson said of the Rangers (3-2). “They are going to feed it to their tailback 30-35 times per game.”
Though it might be tailback in name only. George May, is a 5-foot-8, 220-pound battering ram, who also doubles as a defensive tackle for Northwest. He topped 1,000 yards as a junior, and leads the Rangers with 812 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
Carson said he reminds him of former South Williamsport standout Gideon Green, just shorter. The Eagles have done well against the run this season, allowing 51.3 yards per game on the ground, but haven’t faced a running game like the Rangers’.
“Nobody has really lined it up and run it right at us. We’ve really had teams run it out of the spread,” Carson said. “This one is going to be a real bloodbath in the trenches.”
That’s just how Northwest would like it. The big offensive line that Carson is concerned about looks different from the Rangers’ line last year.
“We’ve got five new starting offensive linemen,” Northwest coach Lon Hazlet said. “They’re all underclassmen, and they’re just going to continually get better.”
If the Rangers have had issues on offense, it’s due to turnovers. They’ve turned the ball over 12 times, and have a minus-9 turnover margin.
“We’ve been playing with fire,” Hazlet said. “We’ve really got to get that fixed. It’s cost us the last two weeks (in losses to South Williamsport and Muncy).”
Carson knows Hazlet’s pain — turnovers were a thorn in the Eagles’ side over the last two seasons — and that’s been one of the biggest improvements for Line Mountain’s offense this season.
“We aren’t shooting ourselves in the foot; we aren’t committing dumb penalties,” Carson said. “It’s a compliment to the kids — to their intelligence and their discipline.”
Things have gone well for the Eagles. Line Mountain has three new offensive line starters — including one senior in his first year of football — and senior Garret Laudenslager moved to halfback for the first time, so some growing pains were expected.
However, the Eagles have hit the ground running with nearly 948 yards rushing in their first three games, while Laudenslager has 489 yards and seven touchdowns.
“We weren’t sure because of three new starters on the offensive line, but they’ve been doing a real nice job,” Carson said, “and (quarterback) Jacob (Feese) has been running the offense real well.”
However, the biggest surprise has been Laudenslager’s adjustment to running back.
“I expected some good things from Garret; I knew what he would bring to the table, but I don’t think in your wildest dreams you could expect him to have 500 yards in three games,” Carson said. “This offense isn’t just like the read-option, where you pick a hole and go. Garret had to learn to follow pulling blockers, and hit holes at the right time.
“He’s done such a great job of it.”
It’s a testament to both the Eagles’ offensive line and to Laudenslager that Line Mountain has played so well following the changes.
“I don’t think we couldn’t have asked for much more,” Carson said. “They’re communicating; they’re understanding their roles; and they’re executing them.”