Above, Old Forge defensive tackle Paul Papo drags down Lackawanna Trail quarterback Zach Goodrich on Friday night during the Blue Devils victory over the Lions. Below, Brian Tomasetti (21) follows the blocking of Lou Febbo for a big gain. The Blue Devils rushed for 415 yards in their victory over Trail.photos by jess kovalcin
On a night that Old Forge honored a team of champions from the past, the current Blue Devils team played like a team that is ready to be champions of the present.
In front of players and coaches from the 1961 Eastern Conference Championship team on Homecoming Weekend in Old Forge, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew dominated every facet of the game in a 37-6 shellacking of Lackawanna Trail in an important Lackawanna Football Conference Division III game at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
The Blue Devils defense set the tone early, forcing a three-and-out series to open the game as defensive end Cory Stuart and linebacker Jorden Sekol made big stops as Old Forge swarmed to the Lions bruising rushing combination of Marvess Rosiak and Eric Laytos.
“We said just swarm the ball, put hats on the ball,” said Old Forge Head Coach Mike Schuback. “We wanted five hats on the ball every time they ran it. Their offense feeds off Eric (Laytos). If you let him run the ball in their offense you are in trouble. But if you swarm him and get him on the ground, you’ll have an easier time.”
Old Forge (5-2 overall, 2-0 LFC) gave the ball right back after a three-and-out, but Sekol came up with two more stops on the ensuing Trail possession and the Lions were forced to punt again.
From there the Blue Devils offense went into high gear.
Colin Carey capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 35-yard touchdown run down the visitors sideline one play after Dave Argust turned a high snap on a punt formation into an 11-yard gain to give Old Forge a first down. Matt Mancuso drilled the first of five extra-points on the night and the Blue Devils led 7-0 with 2:39 left in the first quarter.
The defense held Trail (5-2 overall, 0-2 LFC) again to just three downs and punt, but Carey fumbled the ball on Old Forge’s next play while trying to avoid pressure from the Lions. On the next play, Rosiak went 48 yards on an inside reverse to get the pre-season favorites within 7-6 when the extra point snap was botched.
The Blue Devils again went on a methodical drive, reeling off 12 plays to go 76 yards before Carey found paydirt with 6:53 left in the quarter for the 14-6 lead.
The drive was fueled by the running of senior Lou Febbo and junior Brian Tomasetti. Febbo carried four times for 22 yards and caught the only pass attempt of the drive – slipping into the flats for a 16-yard gain – and Tomasetti ran four times for 15 yards. The duo combined to rush for 163 yards on 25 carries with Febbo going over the 100-yard mark with 111 yards. All told, Old Forge rushed for a season-high 415 yards on the night – a credit to its quickly developing line of Joey Bruno, Paul Papi, Tyler Clark, Anthony Trotta and Ryan Paulish.
“It’s funny. They all went to dinner last night, all the lineman, and it was something neat because they are really gelling together,” said Schuback. “They are taking a sense of pride in what they are doing and they are enjoying it. No one knows their names except us and they are just getting it done.”
The Blue Devils defense continued to get it done, stopping the Lions on three plays after Rosiak and Laytos combined for 12 yards to pick up Trail’s first, first down of the game. Then on third-and-7, Carey electrified the crowd.
Stepping up in the pocket to survey the field at about his own 25-yard line, the senior signal caller took off up the middle of the field and picked up the first down. But Carey wasn’t done. After getting by the first wave of defenders to the Old Forge 40, the first-year starter turned on his jets and went the distance, sprinting between Trail defenders all the way to the endzone for the 76-yard touchdown and a 21-6 lead with 2:46 left before intermission. Carey – who was also named Homecoming King at halftime - finished the night with 144 yards rushing on 11 carries, and also threw for 114 yards.
“I saw Colin run the other night in practice and no one was near him,” said Schuback who won his 73rd game in his 10th year of coaching his alma mater. “I think he’s actually faster than Malkolm (Blackshear). He’s the fastest kid I have coached.
“But more than that, I’m proud of him. He’s a senior and he’s paid his dues. As a quarterback it is tough to sit and wait your turn, but he is a kid with great character and patience, and its paying off for him right now. We are doing well because of his patience. It shows the rest of the team the rewards you can reap as a senior.”
Another senior got in on the act when Argust intercepted Zach Goodrich’s third-down pass on the ensuing possession to set up Old Forge at their own 39. After a five-yard penalty on the Blue Devils for illegal procedure, Carey hit Argust in stride for a 66-yard scoring strike, and a 28-6 lead with 1:46 left in the second quarter.
“We ran a deep post to Dave, and another deep post on the back side to Elijah,” said Schuback of the call. “They jumped the wheel route by Vieira and it left Dave open. He’s another great player and was waiting to break out. We can’t win without Dave on the field. He’s a helluva an athlete. He told us to run him on the post and we hit it.”
Old Forge had one more shot to add to its lead in the first half when Sekol recovered a fumble at the Trail 25, but a holding penalty nullified a 25-yard touchdown run by Febbo, and the Lions held the Blue Devils to go into the locker room down 28-6.
The Blue Devils opened the second half with a six-play drive to the Lions 10-yard line on a 17-yard run by Febbo, and a 35-yard scamper by Tomasetti. But a fumble on second down gave the ball to Trail at its own 10.
Three plays later the Lions were forced to punt, and after a high snap allowed the Old Forge defense to jailbreak into the endzone, Trail punter Pete Murazzi stepped on the line in the back of the endzone for a safety before Jake Manetti blocked the kick.
The safety was the only score of the third quarter, and the Blue Devils led 30-6 heading into the final stanza.
On their final possession of the game, Old Forge scored again as Febbo busted through the right side of the line and sprinted 42 yards down the home sideline and into the endzone for the final touchdown.
“We practiced really hard this week and my biggest fear was that we left it on the practice field because we went really hard and got after each other on Wednesday. Physically and mentally. We had a really hyped up practice,” said Schuback. “We didn’t get an ounce of respect all year. The only way to get respect is to win. We had to beat them. They were state ranked last week. We want to be state ranked. That’s where we want our program to be. The kids put the time in. The coaches put the time in. We think we deserve it. But the only way to do that is to win.”
Old Forge goes on the road Friday night, traveling to Throop to take on Mid Valley. The Spartans have won four of their last five games and are also 2-0 in the LFC Division III.