Lackawanna Trail punches ticket to Hershey
Written by: Ed Weaver on Saturday, December 1st, 2018
DANVILLE – The Lions of Lackawanna Trail shut out Juniata Valley in the second half to earn a trip to Hershey next Thursday afternoon following a 24-14 win in the PIAA Class A semi-finals.
“I’m just so proud of this group of kids,” coach Steve Jervis said following the game. “I think the last 3-4 weeks if you saw us get off the bus and you saw the team we were playing get off the bus, or read about them, not many people gave us a chance. We don’t have a lot of kids, we don’t have a lot of big kids, but we have tough kids that believe in our style. We ran the ball well and threw when we had to and defensively that kid (Zinoblie) was one of the best QB’s we’ve faced all year, so to contain him in the second half the way we did was pretty impressive.”
After a scoreless first quarter, that took just 17 actual minutes to complete, the Lions put together a drive that wound up in the end zone. Lackawanna Trail relied on their ground game to get down inside the Juniata Valley 30 when Ray Melnikoff carried multiple Juniata Valley defenders down to the 4. One play later quarterback Nathan Rolka scored with 9:23 left before halftime on a QB draw to put the Lions up 7-0.
Juniata Valley answered back right away on their ensuing drive. After a kick return by Kyle Derugen to the 29, QB Quinn Zinoblie called his own number and rushed up to midfield then connected on back-to-back passes to Grant Musser and Ryan Betres down to the Trail 7. Zinoblie then kept the ball on the QB draw and scored to tie it back up at 7-7.
Next it was Trail’s turn to answer, and answer they did. A 26-yard kick return by Jeffrey Resto setup the Lions at their own 43. They then handed the ball off to Melnikoff that turned into a 57-yard jaunt into the end zone to put the Lions back up 14-7 with 7:19 left.
Juniata Valley then went back to work to put together another scoring drive. Starting at their 37, the Hornets completed back-to-back passes to Betres to gain up to midfield. From their the Hornets mixed runs by Jaxson Rand and Zinoblie to move into scoring position before Zinoblie scored again on another QB draw. Jefferson Hill’s extra point tied it back up at 14-all.
Trail took back over with 3:27 left before halftime and marched down field to maneuver into scoring position. With 0.9 seconds left Rolka booted a 34-yard field goal to put the Lions on top, 17-14.
The second half of Friday’s Class A semi-final started just like the first half did, scoreless. Both teams had opportunities to expand upon drives but both were held short thanks to good defensive play. After holding their 3-point lead to start the fourth, Trail regained possession 32 seconds into the final quarter. Again the Lions relied heavily on their run game and moved the ball down field.
Another big run by Melnikoff got the Lions down to the Juniata Valley 13. From there Rolka advanced the ball down to the 8 then later scored the game’s final touchdown a play later from 6:32 remaining.
The Hornets tried to answer back and started off with some momentum as Rand returned the following kick to the 44, but eventually Trail came up with an interception off Zinoblie and ran out the clock in the process.
“Our defensive coordinators do a great job. We had to do a little better job spying him in the second and did a better job containing him when he rolled to his right,” Jervis said about his defense and their halftime adjustments. “Overall you have to tackle that kid. He’s tough, he’s fast and we did a better job of that in the second half.”
The Lions will now square off against Farrell, 41-10 winners over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, at 1:00 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium.
“We’re just to be going there (Hershey) and I just trust our kids. We’ll show up ready to play, we’ll do what we do and play our style and we’ll let the chips fall where they may.”
Follow WesternPAFootball.com on Twitter @WPAFootball