LEWISBURG - As Aaron Cole took a knee and the final seconds ticked away at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium, fullback Matt Krezmer raised both arms high into the chilly night air. Moments later a Montoursville lineman walked off the field, his face bloodied but smiling.
The Warriors took all the hits, absorbed a roller coaster of emotions and triumphed against long odds. Montoursville features one of District 4's most tradition-laden programs and those that played Saturday night at Lewisburg now have a secure place in it.
Krezmer caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Cole with 1:35 remaining, capping a frantic and stunning 16-point flurry in less than four minutes that lifted Montoursville to a thrilling 37-33 District 4 Class AA semifinal win. The Warriors became the first team to win a district game at Lewisburg since the Dragons began a terrific postseason run in 2008 and won one of the most exciting games in program history the hard way.
Montoursville’s Cameron Ott, center, splits Lewisburg defenders Brandon Smith, right, and Andrew Nash, left, during Saturday’s District 4 Class AA quarterfinal at Bucknell’s Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com
"Everything we did through the summer and winter paid off," said Cole who played a sensational game, completing 22 of 33 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns while surpassing 1,000 yards. "We started in January and we've been just waiting for this moment all year. We executed the game plan and it was just unbelievable."
That often is an overused term but it truly applied last night. Montoursville, which hosts defending champion Mount Carmel Friday, opened a 21-0 second-quarter lead before Lewisburg scored 33 straight points and took a 12-point lead, seemingly putting away the Warriors.
After all, this was looking like a carbon copy of the October game these two played in which Lewisburg rallied from a 16-0 second-quarter deficit and won, 27-22.
But not this time. This was Montoursville's night and the Warriors never surrendered.
Cameron Ott ignited the comeback with 5:33 remaining when he blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety. This came after two straight Montoursville trips into the red zone produced no points. It was just the spark the Warriors needed.
On the ensuing possession, Cole completed five straight passes, leading a 60-yard drive that he capped with a 2-yard touchdown to tight end Garrett Evans with 3:17 remaining. Montoursville opted to not go with the onside kick and the defense backed up coach J.C. Keefer's faith in it, forcing a three-and-out and setting the stage for the season's biggest drive.
"When Cameron blocked that punt everyone's spirits were lifted and Aaron said we could do this," Krezmer said. "We looked at the clock and we knew it, too. Everyone dug down deep."
Montoursville (8-3) started at its 40 with 2:16 remaining and needed just 39 seconds to score. Following a 21-yard pass to Ott and a spike to stop the clock, Cole faked a handoff and rolled left. He then threw a 10-yard pass to Krezmer who was wide open. Krezmer sprinted upfield, received a great block from Evans, cut back at the 5 and dove in for the go-ahead score.
"I rolled out and Garrett Evans was wide open down the field and I threw to Krezmer and was just hoping Garrett would block," Cole said. "It worked out in the end."
"I thought (Brandon) Smith was trailing me and I turned it and saw a guy trailing me and didn't know whether to cut it back or get extra yards and get out of bounds and stop the clock," said Krezmer who totaled 141 yards and scored twice. "I saw Garrett come over and he had a heck of a block on those two guys and it worked out."
Lewisburg had a chance to regain the lead and quarterback Nick Costigliola (194 yards, 2 touchdowns) hit Luke Smith with a 10-yard pass to the 47 on the first play. One play later it was over, though, when Cameron Karschner (7 catches, 94 yards) capped a big night with an interception.
Karschner, who earlier fumbled before Lewisburg caught fire, symbolized the team's resilience and jumped the inside slant at the Montoursville 40-yard line before being mobbed by happy teammates as Warrior fans erupted on the other sideline.
"What a game of momentum. All sports have momentum but for some reason both times we played them it's been so back and forth," Keefer said. "I've never seen anything like it and our kids really persevered. They showed so much character and they never quit."
Neither did Lewisburg.
The Green Dragons (8-3) were getting destroyed in all facets more than halfway through the second quarter when Smith changed the game's complexion by forcing and recovering a fumble at the Warrior 23. Two plays later he ran over five defenders and scored on a 64-yard touchdown and everything had changed.
Lewisburg ended the first half with a huge flourish when it faked a field goal and Costigliola hit Luke Smith with a 6-yard touchdown pass as time expired, making it 21-14.
Smith (186 yards, 3 touchdowns) tied it on a 25-yard run in the third quarter and Lewisburg went ahead for the first time when Costigliola hit Andrew Nash with a 21-yard touchdown pass. A series later, Lewisburg made it 33-21 when Smith scored from two yards out.
The Dragons scored five straight touchdowns and it seemed like a fifth straight semifinal appearance was imminent.
But when there was no margin for error on either side of the ball, Montoursville played as well as it has all year. The defense became a vise and squeezed the air out of Lewisburg, offensive linemen Brett Trimble, Cody Chilcot, Mikey Signor, Lucas Shaheen and Ben Cerney took over and Cole carved up one of the area's best defenses.
It was a performance great Montoursville teams from the past would be proud of.
"These kids never let down and never once thought they could not win that game," Keefer said. "They were unbelievable."
Smith closed out his brilliant scholastic career with another spectacular performance. The soon to be three-time all-state linebacker had 186 yards and 16 tackles. He also went over the 1,000-yard mark.
"The pride they have and the coaching staff they have what an unbelievable job from their leader Brandon Smith on down," Keefer said. "There's no more of a class act in this area than Lewisburg. Hats off to them"
Montoursville 37, Lewisburg 33
Montoursville147 0 16-37
M-Garrett Evans 10 pass from Aaron Cole (Devin Marriott kick), 4:46
M-Cole 1 run (Jim McMahon kick), 1:23
M-Matt Krezmer 22 run (Marriott kick), 9:56
L-Brandon Smith 64 run (Max Reed kick), 4:34
L-Luke Smith 6 pass from Nick Costigliola (Reed kick), 0:00
L-B. Smith 25 run (Reed kick), 7:47
L-Andrew Nash 21 pass from Costigliola (kick failed), 3:46
L-B. Smith 2 run (pass failed), 11:07
M-Cameron Ott blocks punt out of end zone for safety, 5:33
M-Evans 2 pass from Cole (McMahon kick), 3:17
M-Krezmer 37 pass from Cole (Marriott kick), 1:35
RUSHING: Montoursville, Matt Krezmer 15-72, TD; Clay Stoner 12-62; Aaron Cole 4-6, TD; Griffin Dunne 3-5; Cameron Ott 1-1; Team 1-(-14). Lewisburg, Brandon Smith 15-186, 3 TDs, Nick Costigliola 7-28; Andrew Nash 4-4.
PASSING: Montoursville, Cole 22-33-0, 3 TDs, 247 yards. Lewisburg, Costigliola 16-34-1, 2 TDs, 194 yards..
RECEIVING: Montoursville, Cameron Karschner 7-94; Ott 6-87; Krezmer 4-68, TD; Garrett Evans 4-8, 2 TDs; Stoner 1-(-10). Lewisburg, Luke Smith 5-71, TD; Nash 4-53, TD; Drew Newcomb 3-29; Ty Turner 2-24; B. Smith 1-7.
INTERCEPTIONS: Montoursvlle, Karschner.
Records: Montoursville 8-3. Lewisburg 8-3.