SHAMOKIN — Coming off a thrilling season-opening win over Milton last week, there was a sense of optimism and excitement around the Shamokin football program, the level of which hasn’t always been seen recently.
And although the Indians fell to North Schuylkill 36-15 in the second game on Friday, there still seems to be that optimism, even if Shamokin knows it has some things to work on, chief among them its play on the line of scrimmage.
North Schuylkill amassed 29 first downs to just seven for Shamokin and racked up 443 yards on the ground on a whopping 74 carries as it dominated the Indians up front. On the other side of the ball, the Spartans held Shamokin to just 36 yards on 26 carries and stopped the Indians for negative plays nine times.
“Hats off to North Schuylkill. They are as advertised,” said Shamokin coach Henry Hynoski. “They were more physical up front than us and more attacking than us in some instances. We need to look at the tape and clean up our mistakes. We had a few mental errors in some areas so we just need to do a better job next week — plain and simple, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort. The guys wanted to win and that’s the bottom line.”
“That’s where we’re at as a football team, we’re definitely going to lean on both our offensive and defensive lines,” said North Schuylkill coach Wally Hall, whose team will return to lower Northumberland County to take on Mount Carmel in week 5. “That’s what makes us good, we have good size and we want to run the ball. Defensively, our interior guys are pretty tough.”
The Spartans put together a long 13-play, 62-yard drive that took just under five minutes on their first possession of the game to take a 7-0 lead on Tyler Elsdon’s first of two scores on the night. The Spartans then recovered a Shamokin fumble deep in Indian territory on the ensuing drive, only to fumble it right back to the Indians three plays later. Shamokin’s fumble recovery came at their own 1-yard line, however, and that set up a safety on Shamokin’s first play from scrimmage with 3:36 left in the opening quarter.
North Schuylkill took the ensuing punt at its own 41 and after a 19-yard run by Leiby and a personal foul on Shamokin, which was one of only two penalties by the Indians, Zack Chowansky got free for a 28-yard scamper to put the Spartans up 16-0. Chowansky was also a workhorse for the Spartans as he ran for 125 yards on 25 carries.
Shamokin lost another fumble two possessions later, giving North Schuylkill the ball at the Shamokin 20. They were pushed back by a couple of penalties but ultimately punched it in again on Elsdon’s second scoring run of the night, this one from four yards, to give the Spartans a 23-0 lead.
Shamokin answered on its next drive as Matt Schiccatano caught a Collin Bowers pass near the line of scrimmage and then cut through defenders before letting his speed take over as he raced to the end zone well ahead of a trio of Spartan defenders to put the Indians on the board. After a North Schuylkill penalty on the PAT, Shamokin elected to go for two and converted as Bowers ran it in.
That would be all the scoring until later in the third quarter when the Spartans once again got outstanding field position, this time at the Shamokin 26 and Leiby scored on a 26-yard run on the first play from scrimmage to put the Spartans up 30-8.
The Spartans put together a nine-play drive on their next possession that started on their own 36 and featured rushes on eight of those plays. It was capped by Josh Chowansky’s 17-yard run, and Shamokin blocked the PAT.
The Indians would not go away, however, and came back to notch a late score with 5:20 left in the contest as Bowers capped a 62-yard drive with a six-yard run. The drive featured a 38-yard reception by Joe Masser, who also had a 31-yard catch earlier in the game.
Bowers looked good at times in the passing game, completing 8-of-19 passes for 148 yards, as the Indians were forced to throw for much of the game with the score and North Schuylkill’s dominance on the line.
“He’s a good athlete,” said Hynoski. “We really need to check out the film to truly evaluate but he showed a lot of positive things tonight.”