So how much is riding on the outcome Friday of North East’s game at General McLane – the first league matchup for both schools? The Region 4 championship, if recent history is a solid predictor.
“In the last three years, General McLane’s league record is 21-1 and ours is 20-2, so the winner (of these games) has been the Region champion,” said North East coach Matt Shesman. “There are other good teams this year, too, but history shows this is a very important game.”
Both squads enter Linden Field with different opening-season outcomes. North East exploded for 554 total yards – likely a school record — on its way to a 48-21 win over Greenville, while General McLane dropped a 42-28 decision to a very talented Strong Vincent. Both were non-league games.
Directing the Lancer offense will be returning All-Region quarterback Josh Ponsoll, who showed he can skillfully execute the option by rushing for 160 yards and completing two long touchdown passes against North East in 2010. “He was their main man last year, and he is the guy we have to stop this year,” Shesman said.
Among McLane’s talented athletes at skill positions are Matt Astorino and Chad Kulka. “For the last few years, General McLane has had the complete package,” Shesman said, excelling in offense, defense and special teams.
Against Greenville last week, North East broke open a 14-13 score with three touchdowns in the second period to forge a 35-13 lead and then went on to post a 13-8 advantage in the second half. The Grapepickers committed just one fumble, on a kick-off return, and reached the end zone on all but their last possession. The 48 points were the most scored by North East since a 53-14 route of Maplewood in 2009.
The senior tandem of Alex Svetz (185 yards on 22 carries) and Tyler Johnson (170 yards, 20 totes) claimed a big chunk of North East’s 493 total rushing yards and accounted for six touchdowns. Rocky Owens chipped in 83 yards on 9 rushes and the other score.
Cory Bailey was highly effective at quarterback, completing three passes on crucial third down plays that sustained long drives; his only incompletion was a spike in the second quarter.
Greenville claimed its only lead of the game, 6-0, on the game’s opening series by driving 60 yards in six plays, as Tyler Gentile tossed a 37-yard pass to Niko Zahniser.
North East took the lead with a 77-yard, eight-play drive capped by a one-yard run by Svetz. Bailey completed a 22-yard pass to Johnson on 2nd and 18 after a holding penalty.
Chase Doyle booted the first of his six PATs to put North East on top, 7-6.
The Pickers enjoyed good field position on its next possession by tackling the Greenville punter at the Trojans’ 34. On a 3rd and 4 at the 17, Bailey tossed a 5-yard pass to Johnson who, two plays later, ran the ball in from six yards for a 14-6 lead.
Greenville answered with a five-play, 63-yard drive highlighted by Gentile’s 39-yard pass to Randy Perkins and a 13-yard scoring toss to Luke Houpt that trimmed the Picker lead to 14-13.
North East countered with a 73-yard drive that featured Bailey’s 34-yard pass to Billy Triana on third down and a 29-yard touchdown run by Owens to pull ahead, 28-13.
Max Knight returned a Greenville punt 18 yards to set up North East’s next drive, which spanned 72 yards and 13 plays. Owens had a key 18-yard run on 3rd and 5 from the Greenville 36, and Svetz ran five yards for the touchdown with 9.8 seconds left in the half to boost North East, 35-13.
A 13-yard carry by Johnson sustained a 12-play scoring drive capped by Svetz’s fourth touchdown that extended the Picker lead to 41-13.
But Greenville refused to fold. Gentile ran 73 yards up the middle for a quick score, and the Trojans converted a two-point conversion to trim the Picker lead to 20 points with less than 6 minutes left in the third period.
The momentum was with Greenville as North East fumbled the kick-off, giving the Trojans the ball at the North East 35, but two sparkling defensive plays – a tackle for loss by Max Knight and a near interception by Corey Voorhis – kept the Trojans off the board.
Johnson’s three-yard tally capped North East’s final drive that covered 90 yards.
Shesman praised Adam Koszewski, Travis Hoyt, John Hupp and Steve Denny for the boost they gave when several starters had to come out of the game for extended periods of time due to hot, humid weather conditions.
Greenville rushed for 153 yards and passed for another 122. Gentile led the Trojans 74 yards on the ground. Tyler Fattman added 60 yards.