Big-play Ironmen bring close to MCA postseason
DANVILLE - In a game of big plays, Danville had the two biggest, and that was probably the difference as the Ironmen defeated Mount Carmel, 28-21, in the District 4 AA championship game Friday at Ironmen Stadium.
Danville quarterback Weston Baylor, who had a huge game, threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Bret Berg with 3.4 seconds left in the first half, just 28 seconds after the Red Tornadoes scored a go-ahead touchdown, then connected with Zack Kozick for an 87-yard touchdown with 6:19 left in the game, giving the top-seeded Ironmen (11-2) the win over the defending champion Red Tornadoes (8-5).
Danville will play District 3 champion Wyomissing next weekend at Hershey in the PIAA state playoffs. Wyomissing crushed Bermudian Springs 44-0 in the District Three title game.
Big nights by Baylor and Berg helped Danville overcome the size advantage Mount Carmel used to control play in the first half. Baylor completed 6 of 16 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns, and added 79 yards rushing and a touchdown. Berg caught two passes for 55 yards, both for touchdowns, intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble.
Four turnovers and eight penal-
ties for 75 yards were too much for Mount Carmel to overcome.
"Two years ago, big plays hurt us over here and it was the same thing tonight," Mount Carmel coach Carmen DeFrancesco said. "Their quickness on defense was really something. They were really flying to the ball."
Mount Carmel had the early momentum after a 61-yard run by Lucas Klingerman to Danville's eight-yard line but a series of mistakes kept the Tornadoes from scoring, and DeFrancesco thought that set the tone for the game. An illegal procedure penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved Mount Carmel back to the 20 before throwing an incomplete pass to end the drive.
"I think those first five minutes were the key," DeFrancesco said. "We got down to the five-yard line and then made all sorts of mistakes."
Still, the Tornadoes controlled play thanks to their offensive line and Klingerman, who had 164 yards on 22 carries in the first half and finished with 34 carries for 189 yards.
Mount Carmel took advantage of a Danville mistake, a muffed punt recovered by Gary Grayeski, for a 32-yard drive, with Klingerman scoring on a three-yard run. But Danville, as it would do all night, answered. Moving from their usual Wing-T power game, which had not gained a first down, to a spread offense, the Ironmen drove 72 yards in seven plays. Baylor carried four times for 37 yards and a four-yard touchdown, and also had a 19-yard pass completion to Cale Rice.
"We saw on film that every team that went spread offense on them gave them trouble," Baylor said. "Our offensive line started to give
Mount Carmel took the lead with its best drive, a nine-play, 69-yard drive which looked like it would give the Tornadoes halftime momentum when Marcu Wasilewski ran for a one-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in the half.
But Baylor and his teammates had something to say about that. Baylor had runs of 12 yards and 14 yards to Mount Carmel's 35, and Danville coach Jim Keiser called timeout with 11.6 seconds left. Out of the shotgun, Baylor lofted a pass to Berg, who got behind the defender, caught the ball at the three and pranced into the end zone with 3.4 seconds left.
"How do you even answer that question?" DeFrancesco asked in response to a question of how big that play was. "It was huge."
With Danville receiving the ball to start the second half, it looked even bigger, but Mount Carmel's defense stopped Danville with a three-and-out on that first series. The Tornadoes drove from their 18 to midfield and started playing field position. Danville forced a punt but this time, Baylor fumbled deep in his own territory and Dan Lesko recovered for the Tornadoes at the 15.
Eric Joraskie rumbled for 11 yards to the four, from where Klingerman scored to put Mount Carmel ahead 21-14.
But then it was Danville's turn to play field position. A 50-yard punt pinned Mount Carmel back to its 10 and the Ironmen defense held, with Danville taking over at Mount Carmel's 41 after the ensuing punt. Baylor complete a 13-yard pass to Cale Rice on fourth down, then threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Berg.
Mount Carmel hurt itself on its next series with an illegal procedure and a holding penalty. The defense held but Berg intercepted Rob Varano on an option pass. Two plays later, Baylor found Kozick streaking down the right sideline. Kozik made the catch, turned it back inside and went 87 yards for the go-ahead score.
Danville, which hadn't shown much blitzing to that point sacked Wasilewski twice in Mount Carmel's last two possessions, and Kozick sealed the win with an interception in the final minute.
"Bill Freeman, our defensive coordinator, had our linebackers in good position," Keiser said. "They just had to do a better job of getting to their gaps than they did in the first half."