Montoursville fullback Matt Krezmer was a few yards into the end zone but still kept charging forward, seeking more contact. Friday's Battle for the Bridge was not about illusion, trickery or gimmicks.
It was hard-nosed football at its best and being physical was a necessity. Montoursville won that battle, figuratively and literally. Krezmer and Clay Stoner took turns carrying defenders for extra yards and combined for three rushing touchdowns as the Warriors kept the Bridge Trophy for a second straight year and downed archrival Loyalsock, 21-6 at Memorial Stadium.
Playing behind an offensive line that grew stronger as the game progressed, Montoursville converted eight straight third-down conversions at one point, opened a 21-point fourth-quarter lead and made an impressive statement against a fellow playoff team heading into the District 4 Class AA playoffs. Montoursville (7-3) will play at No. 3 Lewisburg (8-2) Saturday in a rematch of a game the Green Dragons won, 27-22 four weeks ago.
Matt Krezmer (37) of Montoursville celebrates a score Friday night vs. Loyalsock.
"It's awesome," Montoursville linebacker Garrett Evans said after playing one of his best games. "It's been a rivalry for so long so it feels good to come out here and do this."
"It's always a big game going against Loyalsock and it's always fun," Stoner said. "Everyone played well and it was fun to be out there at Memorial Stadium one last time."
Stoner ran for 121 yards and a touchdown while Evans had a team-high 10 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The Warriors won their third straight and the defense held one of the area's most potent offenses to its lowest point total this season.
Loyalsock (5-5) is district playoff bound for the first time in three years and will play at top-seeded Danville next week. The Lancers suffered a potentially devastating blow late when quarterback Kyle Datres injured his already hurt ankle, possibly tearing a ligament, after being hit while attempting an extra point. Datres was closing in on a 1,000-yard rushing-passing achievement and had just thrown a 15-yard touchdown pass to Malik Wilson that cut the deficit to 15 with 7:48 remaining.
The Lancers fought hard but had trouble finishing drives, going 0 for 4 inside the Montoursville 35-yard line during the first three quarters. Linebacker Bailey Young was sensational and made a game-high 12 tackles, several for minimal gains or no gain.
"Bailey Young played very well," Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet said. "I was happy with the way the kids did a lot of different things. They came out and played with heart."
Both teams always do in one of the district's best and most heated rivalries. Friday was no different as the hitting was intense on both sides and players from both teams gained extra yards after contact after it seemed they were definitely going down.
The difference was Montoursville converted its scoring chances and Loyalsock did not. The Warriors scored on consecutive drives, covering 48 and 91 yards. The first ended with Krezmer's 1-yard touchdown. The next drive was possibly Montoursville's best this year as it used 15 plays to go 91 yards, going ahead 14-0 on Stoner's 4-yard touchdown.
Montoursville converted four straight third-down conversions on that drive and was 8 for 9 at that point. The Warriors mixed their offense well and Aaron Cole (10 for 20, 92 yards) made some good throws on the drive while Stoner ran for 31 yards and carried a defender for the final 10, setting up his 4-yard score.
"We converted a couple big third downs to keep it going and then got it into the end zone," Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. "Our defense played bend but don't break and made the plays when they had to and that was huge. I was hoping it wouldn't be a ping pong match back and forth because anything can happen. They're a dangerous team and they play good, hard-nosed football so we didn't want it to be a shootout."
The Warrior offensive line helped eliminate that prospect. Ben Cerney, Mikey Signor, Cody Chilcot, Brett Trimble and Lucas Shaheen were outstanding and took over the game in the second half. Those players helped Montoursville control the clock and keep Loyalsock's offense on the sidelines. Following Wilson's touchdown-a brilliant score in which Wilson broke four tackles after catching a screen at the line of scrimmage - Montoursville took more than four minutes off the clock and drove to the Loyalsock 18.
Montoursville turned the ball over on downs but had Loyalsock pinned at its own 14-yard line and Evans all but clinched the win when he sacked backup Ryan Bogaczyk on the first play.
"The line is what gets everything started," Evans said. "They are the wall, they push and get everything going."
"Our team works hard in the offseason so we're in shape as the season goes on," said Stoner, who topped 100 yards for a seventh time. "I think we're able to keep grinding on teams because of that."
The defense made big plays all night, the first coming when Cameron Ott forced a fumble that Krezmer recovered at the 40-yard line. Two series later, Loyalsock drove to the Montoursville 22, but Griffin Dunne broke up a pass in the end zone and Curtis Miller then intercepted a pass at the goal line.
Loyalsock was gritty in defeat. Datres, Aaron Hepburn and Mike Dougherty all played despite battling painful injuries. Dougherty ran for 56 yards, Hepburn played well on both sides and Datres totaled 122 yards. The Lancers used a no-huddle offense to score their lone touchdown, moving 65 yards on nine plays and scoring on Wilson's highlight-reel touchdown. Wilson caught the final three passes on the drive but Loyalsock managed just three more plays after that.
Ott was outstanding on both sides for Montoursville. The junior linebacker had five tackles and a forced fumble after one quarter and also totaled 68 yards while sparking the first scoring drive with two runs for 21 yards.
"This is a good win four these guys," Keefer said. "This very well could be the last home game for these guys and when it's Loyalsock to boot, it makes it even more special for them."