LOYALSOCK TWP. — Shamokin Area sent a loud message throughout District 4 Saturday. The fifth-seeded Indians not only upset fourth seed Loyalsock in the District 4 Class 3A quarterfinals, it was how they did it that demanded attention.
After giving up a touchdown to the Lancers on the first series of the game, the Indians completely dominated the line of scrimmage the rest of the way for a surprisingly easy 39-7 win at Loyalsock.
Freshman running back Max Madden, starting for injured Brycen James, who was not in uniform, carried the football 35 times for 194 yards, and the Indians racked up 270 total yards on the ground. Quarterback Collin Bowers only threw four passes for 21 yards, but two of them were for touchdowns, and he capped the night with an 81-yard interception return touchdown.
Shamokin (6-5), which will play top seed Danville in the semifinals next week, snapped the ball 69 times on offense, counting three punts, compared to 46 times for Loyalsock, which ended its season 6-5. In fact, after the Lancers drove 75 yards in 11 plays running a no-huddle offense on their first series, with quarterback Connor Watkins throwing a six-yard touchdown pass to Gerald Ross, Loyalsock gained just 36 total yards and three first downs on 38 plays the rest of the game.
“We couldn’t have drawn it up any better but the kids had to execute it,” said Shamokin Area head coach Henry Hynoski. “We knew they had a big play offense and we wanted to keep the ball out of their hands with long drives. It all began with the guys up front, and Mark Wetzel and Nathan Miller blocking for Max, and Max ran really hard. I can’t believe I’m going to have him three more years.”
The Indians answered Loyalsock’s opening score with a 15-play, 74-yard drive, finished by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Bowers to Blake Kane, the only pass of the drive. Madden carried the ball nine times for 48 yards on the drive and a pattern was established.
Shamokin forced a punt on the next series, then went on a 12-play, 71-yard drive to score again. Bowers sneaked over from the one after a 15-yard scramble.
The Indians went 60 yards in 12 plays on their next possession. Madden carried six times for 29 yards and Bowers found Miller on the left side of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown.
Neither team scored in the third quarter but Madden quickly put the game into panic mode for Loyalsock with a 48-yard touchdown run down the Shamokin sideline to give Shamokin a 25-7 lead with 7:59 remaining.
“We had a great game plan to get us a playoff win,” said Madden. “It’s a great feeling. Brycen had a concussion and I knew I was going to get the ball a lot. I was prepared for it and just tried to do the best I could do. The coaches put a lot of confidence in me.”
Watkins completed a 38-yard bomb to Jaiden Cioffi to give Loyalsock life at Shamokin’s 37, but on the next play Bowers picked the ball off in the flat and went on a twisting, turning 81-yard return to ice the win.
Shamokin stopped the Lancers on downs on the next series, and Wetzel completed a short drive with a two-yard touchdown run.
“Obviously things didn’t go our way,” said Loyalsock head coach Justin Van Fleet. “It’s always hard to end a season like this. Shamokin played an outstanding game. Give them all the credit in the world. We tried to stop them with some odd (defensive) formations but they just kept at it.”