The hitting was intense, so hard that one could hear bodies colliding from the press box, high above the Memorial Stadium field.
Montoursville linebacker Garrett Evans was right in his element.
Friday's Battle for the Bridge game between Montoursville and Loyalsock was one of the most physical the Warriors have played this season. That is one of the reasons Evans liked it so much. Evans played one of his best scholastic games too and helped lead Montoursville to a 21-6 win in what was possibly his final game in front of the home crowd.
Montoursville and Aaron?Cole (19) visit Lewisburg on Saturday. Loyalsock, with Steve Harrison?(77)?and Mickey Haller (7), visit Danville Friday.
"The first half was a little intense and then in the second half it started getting rough," Evans said. "When it's rough like that, it's fun."
Evans had plenty of fun at Loyalsock's expense. The three-year starting senior made 10 tackles, had two sacks, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. He also caught two passes for 32 yards and arguably was the game's most valuable player.
A television audience can watch Evans play again tonight and will be impressed if seeing him for the first time. Those that have followed Montoursville the last three years, however, realize that was just the latest in a string of strong Evans performances.
District 4 CLASS?A
Bloomsburg at So. Williamsport
Line Mountain at Southern Col.
District 4 CLASS?AA
Loyalsock at Danville
Troy at Athens
Montoursville at Lewisburg*
Mount Carmel at Central Col.
District 4 Class AAA
Shikellamy at Milton
Shamokin at Selinsgrove
DISTRICT?6 CLASS AAAA
Central Mountain at State College
Eastern Conf. Division I
Northwest at Muncy
Schuylkill Haven at Bucktail
* Saturday at 1. All other games Friday at 7
Evans has been one of Montoursville's best players the past three seasons and is a big reason the Warriors (7-3) have increased their win total the past two. Saturday, he will try and help the Warriors take another step forward when they play at Lewisburg in the District 4 Class AA quarterfinals. If they win, Evans likely will play an instrumental role.
"Every week Garrett goes hard no matter what," said fellow linebacker Clay Stoner. "Every week he's in there making tackles and sacks. He's our go-to guy for defense. We can put him anywhere."
Evans played defensive end the last two years before moving to linebacker this season. He is as versatile as he is talented and still will line up on the line at times. Whatever Montoursville needs, wherever it needs him, Evans delivers. His forced fumble recovery, helped stop a potential Loyalsock drive near midfield in the third quarter and his two sacks basically ended the first half and clinched the win, respectively.
Whether playing the run or the pass, Evans made an impact and his performance helped Montoursville hold a potent offense to its lowest point total this season.
"Garrett was flying all over the place," Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. "Sometimes that gets him in trouble, especially when you're playing against a mobile quarterback like (Kyle) Datres but he was outstanding. Garrett is our playmaker out there on the edge and he did a real nice job."
Evans is an impact offensive player too. Montoursville has won three straight games by 15 points or more, two against playoff teams. That streak started when Evans moved to eight end against Milton. The senior caught two touchdown passes in that game and has seven catches for 124 yards the last three weeks.
Everything has come together the last three weeks and Montoursville is peaking at the right time. Evans is a huge reason why.
"Coach has been talking all year about our defense and offense jelling together," Evans said. "The last game here, I can see what he's talking about."
BACK AGAIN: Despite losing a strong nucleus from last year's 8-2 team and battling a series of costly early-season injuries, Bucktail is headed to the Eastern Conference playoffs for a third straight year. The Bucks (6-3) have won four of their last five games and battered Carson Long, 68-3 last Friday at Lock Haven University as Ryan Bratton threw four touchdown passes and topped 1,000 yards. Once players like Matt Horton, Larry Green and Colton Risley returned at midseason, Bucktail has taken off and has clinched a second straight winning season, an impressive achievement for one of the state's smallest schools. Now the Bucks host a playoff game for just the second time in program history when they meet Schuylkill Haven Friday.
In a way, Bucktail, is the Hickory Huskers of District 4 football. If the Bucks have 25 players to start a season that usually qualifies as a big roster. Still, they have won 14 games the last two seasons and their only league losses have come against perennial District 11 force Pius X.
Horton has been sensational and has needed only half a season to show why he is one of Bucktail's all-time great players. The senior cornerback/wide receiver has scored 12 touchdowns in just five games. He caught three touchdown passes Friday, returned an interception for a score and returned a punt for another touchdown. Eight of Horton's 16 catches have gone for touchdowns and he is a shut-down cornerback who has three interceptions in five games.
MILESTONES GALORE: Week 10 was a big one for several area players who achieved impressive individual honors. Dynamic Central Mountain quarterback played another big game, accounting for five touchdowns while becoming the first player in program history to top 1,000 yards rushing and passing in a 63-33 win over Jersey Shore. Walker now has 1,489 yards rushing and 1,066 yards passing. Cornerback Tyler Pavalko also keeps topping his own personal record and now has 10 interceptions as the Wildcats prepare to face State College in districts ... Williamsport running back Devin Miller joined an elite fraternity, going over 1,000 yards for a third straight year. Miller ran for 139 yards and his 52-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pushed him over the top. Miller is one of the few players in the history of a program that has featured some famous and standout running backs to reach 1,000 yards three straight years. He finished his career with 3,238 yards ... Jersey Shore running back Utoah Agae-Naipo ran for a career-high 141 yards against Central Mountain and finished the season with 916 yards, the best total by a Bulldog runner this century ... Garrett Moser threw for 185 yards against Southern Columbia and became the first Warrior Run quarterback to surpass 1,000 yards since 2007. Moser is third on the program's all-time yardage list and threw for 1,110 yards and 10 touchdowns this season ... Wellsboro running back Jermaine Brooks ran for a career-high 191 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries as Wellsboro rallied past North Penn, 24-13. The Green Hornets (5-5) beat their archrival for the first time since 2008 and have several quality starters returning, so keep an eye on this rising program.
REALLY?: Is there a worse district than District 4 at letting teams and the public know what is going on? In the past, the district web site was all but worthless and now it does not even exist. Teams, parents and fans are left wondering when they are playing even though the pairings were obvious by late Friday night. This is the 21st century and it's time District 4 leaves the Stone Age, figures out how to use a computer and starts posting vital information. This is beyond pathetic.
Dr. Masse's area top five
1. South Williamsport (9-1): The Mounties are outright league champions for the first time since 1999 after blanking Montgomery, 42-0. South Williamsport captured the NTL Small School championship and won its league games by an average 25-point margin. The Mounties have beaten five teams that defeated them last year, including Friday's District 4 Class A semifinal opponent Bloomsburg. South also has won six straight games and is playing well in all facets while restoring the luster to a program that was one of the state's best throughout the 1990s. Brandon Stonge, Dominick Bragalone and Matt Bartholomew all have run for more than 550 yards while quarterback Tyler House has thrown 15 touchdowns, the most by a Mountie quarterback this century. The defense also is surging and the starters have not allowed a point the last two weeks.
2. Lewisburg (8-2): The Green Dragon offensive line is playing as well as any unit in the district and overpowered Mifflinburg in Friday's 38-6 win. Lewisburg has scored at will the last two weeks, putting up 87 points and the line has opened big holes for running backs while giving Nick Costigliola ample time to throw. The receivers have to do a better job holding onto the ball this week, but other than that, Lewisburg is right where it needs to be entering districts. First-year coach Jeremy Winn has done a nice job with a team that lost some standout players and the Dragons are two points from taking an eight-game winning streak into Saturday's district quarterfinal. Lewisburg is playoff bound for a fifth straight season and has won at least eight games each time.
3. Montoursville (7-3): The Warriors get another shot at Lewisburg after losing to it, 27-22 five weeks ago. Montoursville led that game 16-0 late in the second quarter and has come a long way since. It seems kind of crazy that two teams as good as Lewisburg and Montoursville are playing this early but that speaks volumes about the depth in District 4 this season.
"It's always cliche to say anybody can win the district championship, but it's really any of these eight teams that are in it can win it and we feel like we have just as good a chance as anybody else," Keefer said. "Three of the teams in there have beat us so that's kind of a little extra incentive."
4. Muncy (7-3): This Muncy team put its own mark on program history by ending 11 years of frustration and becoming the first to beat Hughesville since 2000. The Indians also were the first to win at Hughesville since the 1990s, beating the Spartans, 27-7. Muncy earned the top seed in the Class A Eastern Conference playoffs. The seniors now have another chance to erase the bad tastes in their mouths from their last home game against South Williamsport when they host Northwest Friday. Quarterback Anthony Barberio seems to be getting better every week and ran a brilliant, game-changing two-minute drive at the end of the first half while throwing a career-high three touchdowns. Barberio topped 1,000 yards and has thrown for 496 yards and seven touchdowns the last four weeks.
5. Milton (6-4): The Black Panthers clinched their first winning season since 2001, thumping Shikellamy on the road, 27-7. Milton is seeking its second straight District 4 Class AAA final appearance and hosts Shikellamy Friday. Since falling behind Jersey Shore 17-0 in Week 9, Milton has outscored opponents 58-7 and its defense stifled a dangerous Shikellamy offense. Jarred Fogelman, Jayson English and Josh Brown all ran well and the Panthers look like a team that can make a district championship push.
Player of the Week
Brandon Smith, Lewisburg: The senior running back/linebacker has been on a rampage and ran all over and around Mifflinburg defenders. The four-year starter ran for a career-high 205 yards on just 16 carries and scored three touchdowns while also catching three passes for 50 yards and another score. The two-time all-state linebacker also was part of a starting defense that did not allow a point.
Game of the Week
Bloomsburg at South Williamsport: Friday's District 4 Class A semifinal at Rodney K. Morgans Stadium should be quite a scene. The Mounties are hosting their first playoff game since 1999 and have had a memorable season. Friday could be a community event as the Mounties continue bringing their program back to prominence against an outstanding team that has defeated Class AA top seed Danville and No. 2 Central Columbia the last two weeks. South beat Bloomsburg, 34-27 in its season opener in a great back-and-forth game. The rematch could be even better.