‘Down, but never out’
Branson Eyer took the snap on fourth-and-goal at the Lackawanna Trail 1-yard line with no intention of giving up the football. He put his foot in the ground and lunged forward, but there was nowhere to go. The Muncy quarterback was stopped cold in his tracks at Williamsport’s STA Stadium. A Lions defensive front which slowed the Muncy offense for the better part of 47 minutes Friday night, made one final push to propel them to the PIAA’s Final Four.
Lackawanna Trail ate away clock with extensive drives and averaged more than 6 yards per play in a 26-13 win over Muncy in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals.
Muncy’s remarkable season comes to a close having won its second consecutive District 4 championship, its third in four years, and the first state tournament game in school history.
“It’s the season that never should have happened,” Muncy coach Sean Tetreault said. “Nobody believed that Muncy
should be here in the state quarterfinals and we proved everybody wrong and made a great run.”
The best run in school history ended principally because it struggled to find a consistent answer to the Lions’ Wing-T offense which averaged more than 7 yards per carry in the first half in building a two-score lead.
In the biggest of spots, Lackawanna Trail always had an answer. A fake punt on fourthand-1 extended what became an 11-play, 63- yard touchdown drive in
the first quarter. Trail converted on a third-and-5 on the drive with an off-tackle run for 11 yards, and a third-and-3 with a similar off-tackle run for a 6-yard touchdown.
“We were too aggressive,” Tetreault said. “Our linebackers were reading the guards well, but they flew out and left the middle of the field wide open. Their running backs really saw the holes well and did a great job.”
Muncy got exactly the kind of start it needed to compete with the returning state finalist when Eyer took the game’s third snap on a sweep to the left and saw a sealed edge from the offensive line and Ethan Gush which left him one-on-one with a safety. Eyer cut around the safety and outran everyone to the end zone.
Just 61 seconds into the game the Indians had a 7-0 lead thanks to its freshman signal-caller.
“I feel like it was a confidence booster for all of us,” said Eyer, who finished with 103 rushing yards. “I ran the exact same play for a touchdown last week, but it was called back. I saw the exact same thing I did last week and just took off and scored.”
“It settled them all in,” Tetreault said. “They realized it’s just a game and [it’s a game] they can compete in and a game where they can do great things.”
But that was about the most consistent performance for the offense all night. After Eyer’s touchdown run, the Indians had first-half drives of three plays, four plays, five plays and three plays.
Trail’s defensive front rarely allowed 1,000-yard back Gush to reach the line of scrimmage without facing some kind of contact first. His longest run of the night was just six yards. Eyer’s 103 rushing yards represented more than a third of Muncy’s rushing yards.
Dropping a trio of passes in the first half surely didn’t help the cause. The Indians didn’t threaten again until it was trailing 26-7 at the end of the third quarter, converting three times on third down to set up a four-yard scoring pass from Eyer to Gage Wertz on the first play of the fourth quarter.
When Chase Crawley intercepted a pass on the ensuing drive, it gave the Indians
a chance to cut the deficit to one score. A 44-yard pass from Eyer to Wertz set Muncy up with first-and-goal at the 10. The Indians worked to the 1-yard line on fourth down where it called for the quarterback sneak from Eyer. But the offensive line which seemed to finally have found its footing, got stonewalled and there was nowhere for
Eyer to go.
Lackawanna Trail ran the next 5 1/2 minutes off the clock to all but end the game.
“Our kids never wavered,” Tetreault said. “They believed they had a shot to win the game from the moment they stepped on the field. They were down, but they were never out. Those kids played to the very last horn and I can’t
be more proud of them.”
Lackawanna Trail 26,
(PIAA CLASS A QUARTERFINALS)
Lackawanna Trail 14 6 6 0 -26
Muncy 7 0 0 6 – 13
M-Branson Eyer 58 run (Isaac Boring kick),
LT-Ray Melnikoff 6 run (Melnikoff kick),
LT-Melnikoff 3 run (Melnikoff kick), :39
LT-Kody Cresswell 10 run (kick failed),
LT-Cresswell 12 run (run failed), 4:51
M-Gage Wertz 4 pass from Branson Eyer
(run failed), 11:55
First downs 16 10
Rushes-yds 52-347 32-168
Pass yards 5 56
Total yards 352 224
C-A-I 2-6-1 5-14-0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 5-58 5-30
RUSHING-Lackawanna Trail, Ray
Melnikoff, 20-157, TD; Kody Cresswell, 10-86,
2 TDs; Nico Berrios, 12-62; Jeff Resto, 8-20;
Tyler Rozanski, 1-19; Luke Baldwin, 1-3.
Muncy, Branson Eyer, 11-103, TD; Christian
Good, 6-31; Ethan Gush, 11-27; Ross Eyer, 1-
6; Paul Pepper, 1-1; Eli Weikle, 2-0.
PASSING-Lackawanna Trail, Berrios, 2-5-
0, 5 yds.; Melnikoff, 0-1-1. Muncy, Branson
Eyer, 5-13-0, 56 yds., TD; Christian Good, 0-1-
RECEIVING-Lackawanna Trail, Cresswell,
1-4; Melnikoff, 1-1. Muncy, Gage Wertz, 2-48,
TD; Nathan Palmatier, 1-4; Ethan Gush, 1-3;
Christian Good, 1-1.
INTERCEPTIONS-Muncy, Chase Crawley
RECORDS: Muncy (9-5); Lackawanna Trail