MOUNT CARMEL - Mount Carmel's much-maligned defense led the way Friday as the Red Tornadoes defeated Shamokin 21-7 to win the Coal Bucket game for the 17th straight season.

The Red Tornadoes, who were giving up 27 points per game, not only held the Indians to 121 total yards, but scored two of their three touchdowns on the defensive side in finishing the regular season 6-4. Shamokin ended the season 2-8 but both teams will compete in District 4 playoffs next week, Mount Carmel in AA and Shamokin in AAA.

Elijah Duran's three-yard return of a Zach Tillett fumble was the only touchdown in a first half in which Mount Carmel, playing without injured starting quarterback Zach Wasilewski, struggled offensively, gaining just 42 total yards.

Mike Gilger's 36-yard interception return for a touchdown of an ill-fated option pass by Preston Burns gave Mount Carmel a 14-0 lead in the third quarter, and the Red Tornadoes' offense finally got on the board in the fourth quarter on an 11-play, 51-yard drive helped immensely by two pass interference

penalties, the first of which was questionable.

It was not a night for offenses, period. Shamokin's defense limited the Red Tornadoes, who entered the game averaging 34 points per game, to 137 total yards, and sacked freshman quarterback Dominic Farronato five times.

The Indians had 121 total yards and were pinned back on their side of the field for most of the game.

"Yeah, they did," said Mount Carmel coach Carmen DeFrancesco, who was battling a 102-degree fever, when asked if the Indians gift-wrapped a couple of touchdowns for his team. "But our defense also played great and I think our offensive line took over a little bit in the second half."

Really, the whole tone of the game was set up on the opening kickoff. Tillett, instead of letting the ball bounce into the end zone for a touchback and possession on the 20, picked the ball up at the one and returned it about five yards. That gave the Indians the ball at their own six-yard line, and their offense couldn't get them out of the hole the rest of the half.

Their defense didn't surrender much to Mount Carmel, either, but Tornado punter Rob Varano kept pinning the Indians back. His first punt went for a touchback, but his second pinned the Indians back to the five, and the Indians fumbled into Duran's hands on their first play, giving Mount Carmel, which missed the extra point, a 6-0 lead after the first quarter.

Shamokin started its next drive at the 20 after a 33-yard Varano punt, and immediately went backward when quarterback Tucker Yost was sacked on a busted play.

Shamokin's punters, unlike Varano, struggled. Tillett punted four times for a 22-yard average, and later, Jon Deitrick had a punt blocked. But the Indians didn't give an inch in the first half. Mount Carmel five of its six first-half possessions at the 50 or deep in Shamokin territory but could not score. Shamokin finally got out to midfield on a 35-yard pass from Yost to Sean McLaughlin. The Indians reached to the 39 but two illegal procedure penalties wiped out their threat.

Klingerman's 54-yard kickoff return to start the second half continued the field position advantage for the Tornadoes. They drove to the Indians' five but Klingerman lost a fumble. However, Shamokin recovered at the one, couldn't move the ball, and had to punt, but Varano lost a fumble after a 10-yard punt return.

Mount Carmel got the ball right back when Duran intercepted Yost over the middle. Shamokin's defense held again and Julian Deitrick's 26-yard punt return gave the Indians decent field position but obn third down, Gilger read Burns' option pass and sailed untouched into the end zone with his fifth interception of the season, making it 14-0 with 2:05 left in the third quarter.

Farronato scored on a four-yard run to complete the 51-yard drive, on which Klingerman had a 25-yard run.

Burns' 32-yard return of the ensuing kickoff set up Shamokin's score. A 26-yard pass from Yost to Hunter Bloom set up a six-yard touchdown pass from Yost to Tillett.

"We had field position most of the game and I think that's what happened two years ago up here too in this game," DeFrancesco said. "We also had guys from our 2002 state championship team in to talk to the kids before the game. That's a big advantage we have in this series, that we can call on our tradition to do things like that. Our kids were really ready to come out and play."