MOUNT CARMEL Lewisburg players walked right past the scoreboard at Mount Carmel's Silver Bowl and the numbers that were lit up couldn't make much sense. The Green Dragons held the Red Tornadoes to 54 yards of total offense in the first half, yet they trailed 13-8 after 24 minutes.
A pair of special teams breakdowns led to the deficit, and once Mount Carmel did put together an effective drive to start the second half for a two-score lead, Lewisburg's offense had little chance against a Mount Carmel defense that resembled the Red Death defenses of some of its past champions.
Mount Carmel held the Green Dragons to under 200 yards and set up an early-season showdown next week in District 4 with rival Southern Columbia after a 30-14 win over the Green Dragons on Friday night.
Lewisburg limited Mount Carmel (2-0, 1-0 HAC-II) to just over 200 yards of total offense, but a punt return set up one score in the first half and a blocked punt led directly to another.
"We didn't play as bad in the first half as the score indicated," Lewisburg coach Jeremy Winn said. "Defensively we play great, but offensively we didn't hold up our end of the bargain and then we had some breakdowns on special teams.
"I still think we have a good football team and we just have to get better in a few things."
Blake Panko, who averaged over five yards a carry last week in a win over Shikellamy, was limited to 17 on 13 carries last night, but the junior still found a way to make a big contribution with his legs. Panko returned a first-quarter Luke Smith punt 40 yards to the Lewisburg 16 with the benefit of a few key blocks and great vision.
One play later, quarterback Zack Wasilewski hit Juwan Sullins on a quick slant and the junior wide receiver went untouched through the Lewisburg secondary.
The game's first touchdown came minutes after Mount Carmel missed on a big opportunity after a sack and fumble gave it the ball at the Lewisburg 8. The Green Dragons, however, recovered a fumble of their own on the very next play.
Special teams played a pivotal role in allowing the Red Tornadoes to take a 13-0 early in the second quarter. This time, Panko had the opportunity to watch the play unfold in front of him as an errant snap turned Smith around in the end zone. When the Lewisburg punter twisted his body around to attempt to punt the ball away, a Mount Carmel defender was bearing down on him and blocked the punt. It bounced outside the end zone but it was batted back in and Mount Carmel's Dylan Patrick, a 5-foot-9, 201-pound lineman, fell on the ball.
"Special teams is huge," Mount Carmel coach Carmen DeFrancesco said. "If you come and watch us practice every day, we stretch them out a little bit and run them and then special teams is the first thing we work on. It's a point of emphasis for us and it came up big tonight."
Needing a break to get back into the game, Lewisburg (1-1, 1-1) received one when Drew Newcomb intercepted his fourth pass in the first two weeks of the season. The turnover gave the Green Dragons the ball at the Mount Carmel 36, and two plays later Nick Costagliola found Morgan Getkin in the corner of the end zone. Minus kicker Max Reed, Lewisburg converted a two-point conversion.
The teams combined for just 128 total yards in the first half, 74 by Lewisburg.
Wasilewski completed just 1 of 7 passes in the first half, to no fault of the senior quarterback who had to deal with several drops by his receivers on a chilly night. Wasilewski and Mount Carmel didn't shy away from their passing game, however, and opened the second half with their biggest pass play of the night a 31-yard connection from Wasilewski to Treyvon White that took the ball from the Mount Carmel 31 to the Lewisburg 38. Another pass from Wasilewski to Christian Kelley covered 22 yards after the 230-pound tight end barreled his way through the Lewisburg defense down to the 10. Lewisburg's defense didn't budge much over the next three plays, but Kelley snuck free in the secondary on a fourth-and-4 from the 8 and Wasilewski found him for a 21-8 lead.
"We came out in the second half and that was a nice drive our kids put on there," said DeFrancesco.
A safety made it 23-8 and a Wasilewski 1-yard run pushed the Mount Carmel lead to 30-8 with 8:36 left.
Wasilewski finished with two passing touchdowns and one rushing.
Costagliola finished 12 of 24 for 104 yards and a touchdown against a relentless pass rush that rarely allowed the senior quarterback to set his feet or challenge the Mount Carmel defense long.
"Hopefully we can rebound like we did last year and make a run here," Winn said. "We have to lick our wounds here and learn from our mistakes and get back and ready to play next week."