Despite Loss, Indians in Playoffs This Friday at Home
Backed up at its own 3-yard line and having failed to score on two straight possessions against an amped up Muncy defense, Hughesville found itself in a precarious situation.
But the Spartans were not worried. A senior group that went from losing 56-0 to Muncy three years ago to already having clinched a District 4 Class AA playoff berth already had shown it could come a long way in a short time.
So in a drive that served as a microcosm of what that senior group stands for, Hughesville changed the game’s complexion, going 97 yards in 12 plays and scoring on Andy Laychur’s five-yard run. The Spartans never led by less than 14 the rest of the way as they defeated neighborhood rival Muncy, 34-7 in an intense regular-season finale played in front of an overflowing crowd.
“This means a lot. They always used to beat us in junior high and they really took it to use when we were in ninth grade,” said senior Hughesville quarterback Kyle Stubbs, who completed two passes for 63 yards on the pivotal drive.
“We just wanted to come up here and tell them that junior high is over and we’ve grown up a lot and I think we did that.”
Stubbs completed 10 of 12 passes for a career-high 151 yards and two touchdowns, while Laychur ran for a career-high 209 yards, added 44 receiving yards and scored four touchdowns.
The Spartans broke open the game in the second half, scoring on three straight possessions while grinding down a game Muncy defense. Hughesville controlled the ball for 33 minutes and ran 26 more second-half plays than Muncy (5-5).
It was just the way Hughesville’s seniors had dreamed of playing in their final crosstown rivalry game.
“I don’t think you can say enough about this senior group,” Hughesville coach Rick Reichner said. “They fought back. They knew back in ninth grade they lost 56-0 and they wanted to make sure that didn’t happen tonight and it’s a credit to them. They’ve worked hard. They keep working, they keep getting better and you see the results on the field here with this group of seniors.”
Hughesville improved to 8-2, its best regular-season finish since 2005. The Spartans will be either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in next week’s district playoffs and will either travel to No. 4 Lewisburg or No. 3 Montoursville.
Muncy suffered its fifth loss to a team that has at least six wins. The Indians, playing without leading receiver Steve Shoup, will try to win their second straight Eastern Conference championship and will play either Lourdes, Bucktail, Tri-Valley or Pius X.
The Indians were a few dropped passes and a fourth-and-1 stop from being in a better position than down 14-0 at halftime. Defensive tackle Zach Martin and linebacker Chris Bartlow played outstanding games, combining for several tackles for losses. Muncy’s toughness was epitomized by linebacker Cody Whitteker who was carried off the field in the first quarter but returned one series later.
“Our kids played hard. They gave us everything they had, but we just made too many little mistakes,” Muncy coach Scott McLean said. “We played hard, we played physical, but we got worn down.”
Credit Chet Ritter, Kevin Daugherty, Cameron Day, Jon Hoot and Cameron McCowan for that. Hughesville’s offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage in the second half as Laychur, Robert Hodgson, Ethan Showers and Blaine Johnson took turns breaking off big runs. The line’s strong push off the ball combined with Laychur’s hard-nosed running took a toll on the Indians as Laychur gained 116 second-half yards.
Laychur’s fourth touchdown came on a 1-yard dive and answered an efficient Muncy scoring drive capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass from Dan Murphy to Bryan Parrish. Laychur also made a huge defensive play in the first quarter, stopping Bartlow for no gain on a 4th-and-1.
“Our offensive line came out and dominated the second half,” Reichner said. “When they’re going like that it makes it easy for these guys to run behind them. They stepped up at halftime and realized they had to take the game over and they did just that and our kids ran hard behind them.”
Hughesville put the game away midway through the fourth quarter when Stubbs completed his seventh straight pass and hit Levi Oden for a 3-yard touchdown. Oden had five catches for 66 yards and also intercepted a pass as Hughesville’s defense held Muncy to eight first downs.
“Levi has the ability to burn the corners and he makes a lot of great plays coming back to the ball,” Stubbs said. “I don’t throw the best balls all the time and he makes great adjustments and comes back and makes plays.”
Hughesville and Muncy will be making their 13th combined postseason appearances this decade, highlighting the success both small-school programs have had and showcasing what makes this rivalry such a good one.
South Williamsport shifted the momentum late in the fourth quarter to beat Montgomery 27-22, marking the Mounties’ second win of this season.
The Mounties (2-8) put the game away when Ryan Bastian hit Bryan Hill on a slant for a touchdown, capping an 11-play drive for an 11-point lead with 3:31 to play.
But it was South’s Matt Marzzacco recovering a Chris Murosky fumble on a sideline pass on the previous drive, setting up the score, that changed the game.
“The turning point was after their turnover in the fourth quarter when we had to drive and score,” South Williamsport coach Mike Pearson said. “Once we got the ball back, we kind of looked at each other, we had a timeout in the huddle and said ‘Guys, we got to do this now because this fourth quarter clock is moving very rapidly.’ So our guys took it upon themselves to get a drive and get in the end zone.”
South Williamsport didn’t just rely on the running game, with Mark Smithgall and Caleb Stetts rushing for more than over 400 yards each this year. South Williamsport fared well through the air as well Friday. Although Bastian didn’t complete a pass until the second quarter, he ended the game completing six of his final eight passes, one for a touchdown, with 117 passing yards.
“I think we had to be balanced because of the pressure that Montgomery was bringing at us with the six man front with two linebackers coming,” Pearson said. “There were times we were able to run the ball well, but we had to throw the ball well to move the chains many times.”
Eight of Bastian’s 10 completions were for at least 11 yards. The Mountaineers running game was effective with both Smithgall and Stetts. Smithgall gained 88 yards on 23 carries, while Stetts had 94 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns.
South Williamsport made big plays defensively to help carry them to a win. The Mountaineers’ Jake Wein added an interception to their fumble recovery and Zach Moon manage to sack Montgomery quarterback Cody Kulago. South Williamsport also kept Montgomery in check on third down throughout the night. The Red Raiders only converted three of their eleven third downs, but they did go 1-for-2 on fourth down attempts.
Rob Houseknecht stopped Jared Ward on a third-and-1 in Montgomery’s own territory in the third quarter and then held them when they went for it on fourth-and-one.
“Defense was big because they made the plays that they had to make to help us win this football game,” Pearson said. “I know that sounds like a cliche, but there were some very big plays that our defense had to make tonight and they made them.”
Penalties seemed to hurt the Red Raiders through the entire night. Montgomery had a chance to increase its lead about midway through the second quarter when Kulago hit Jared Ward for a 64-yard touchdown after Ward juked a member of the secondary and broke it for the touchdown, but an illegal motion flag negated the touchdown that would have put Montgomery up by 8.
Stetts then blocked a Tyler Yeagle punt and Scott Wolf recovered it on Montgomery’s 16-yard line and then scored a touchdown to go up 13-8.
“That was a big football play for them,” Pearson said. “Had they gotten it, they’d have picked up a lot of momentum.”
Montgomery’s late rally fell short after Harry Shuey ran in from the 15 for a touchdown pass. But South recovered the onsides kick and ran out the clock.
Kulago ended the game with 142 passing yards on just eight completions, with a touchdown.
PIAA girls tennis championships held last Friday at the Hershey Racquet Club resulted in Class AA girls doubles Hughesville’s Kim Rogers and Abby Hess fell 6-4, 6-4, to Tulpehocken’s District 3 champion Krysti Noecker/Lauren Zezenski, who reached the semifinals.
In Class AA girls singles, Hughesville’s Megan Gardner fell 6-2, 6-2 to Harriton’s District 1 runner-up Casey Robinson, who reached the semifinals.
Muncy’s Breanne Phillips fell 6-4, 6-1 to Holy Name’s District 3 champion victoria Foanio, who fell in the second round.
Gardner qualified as District IV champion; Rogers/Hess and Phillips were runners-up.