Wildcats end Indians dream of playoffs
Written by: William Albright on Saturday, October 8th, 2016
The look on Pat DiRienzo’s face said it all. It was one of bafflement and searching for answers. By contrast, the looks on James Renninger’s face and those of his team were all smiles.
Needing to win on Friday against Renninger’s Central Mountain squad to have any chance at staying in the District 4 Class 4A playoff race, DiRienzo’s Shamokin Indians came out flat, gave up a safety on their first drive of the game and only scored on a bad snap by the Wildcats that produced a safety as Shamokin fell 15-2 to Central Mountain.
The win by Central Mountain keeps it alive for a playoff berth in District 6 class 5A with a 3-4 record. There are only two playoff spots out of District 6 in class 5A and only two 5A teams in the district, but the Wildcats must be .500 to fill one of those slots due to a school district policy. For Shamokin, though not mathematically eliminated yet, the loss effectively eliminates the Indians from postseason contention, especially given their tough three-game closing stretch.
“Penalties just did us in,” said DiRienzo. “I can’t say much else. Our offensive line didn’t step up tonight and we just didn’t execute for whatever reason. It’s frustrating because they practiced well, but we just stalled. We couldn’t execute blocks and they overpowered us from the defensive line. I’m just scratching my head trying to put my finger on what I have to do to get this team to believe.”
Central Mountain held Shamokin to just 132 total yards, including 71 rushing yards on 40 attempts, a paltry 1.8 yards per carry, as the Wildcat defensive line wrecked havoc on Shamokin’s backfield all night. Some key holding penalties by the Indians brought back a few big plays but Central Mountain twice stopped Shamokin in the red zone on downs and also stopped a Shamokin drive that looked promising just before halftime.
Our defense has really been playing well for the last three weeks,” said Renninger. “Our defensive line really got off the ball and our linebackers are starting to stay back and read things. It’s a process but our defense is really playing well right now.”
In what would be an omen of things to come on the evening, on Shamokin’s second play from scrimmage after the Indians received the opening kickoff, Devin Pietkiewicz had a long rushing gain erased due to a holding penalty and the Indians were eventually forced to punt. The Wildcats blocked the punt and it went out of the end zone for a safety.
That would be the only score of the first quarter, as Central Mountain lost a fumble at the Shamokin 7-yard line after received the ensuing free kick.
Midway through the second quarter, Shamokin had a 34-yard run on an end-around by Jake Jeremiah wiped out due to another holding penalty, and DiRienzo later elected to go for it on a fourth-and-4 from his own 35. The pass fell just shy of the intended receiver and Central Mountain took over with outstanding field position.
Five plays later, Justin Neff ran it into the end zone from seven yards out to give Central Mountain a 9-0 lead. Neff led all players with 103 yards, all rushing, in the game, but it seemed like a relatively quiet performance for him, as 48 of those yards came on a single play. Neff had just 27 yards in the first half. Central Mountain didn’t have any passing yards and had only two attempts.
“We found some things in between the tackles, they overloaded some things outside to take away the things we like to do with Justin, so we just kept pounding them in,” said Renninger. “Justin still made some crucial plays at key times but them having to account for him opened up some things for other people.”
A long kickoff return by Pietkiewicz after Neff’s touchdown was also wiped out due to a holding penalty, and Shamokin had to take over at their own 23 instead of in Central Mountain territory. The Indians drove to the Wildcat 34 and had a pass into the end zone go just off Jeremiah’s fingertips but were unable to score heading into the half.
Central Mountain received the second half kickoff and on the first play from scrimmage, Neff got loose for his 48-yard gain and five plays later, he ran it in from seven yards out again to put the Wildcats up 15-0.
Shamokin got a 67-yard kickoff return from Jeremiah on the ensuing kickoff to set itself up at Central Mountain’s 30, but the Wildcats stopped the Indians on a fourth-and-1 from the 11. The Indians then made Central Mountain go three-and-out and a scored their only points of the game when the snap went over the punter’s head on fourth down for a safety.
The Indians got into the red zone again on their next possession, reaching the Central Mountain 11, but the Wildcats stopped them on fourth down again, and that would be the last chance Shamokin had to score in the game.
Central Mountain 15, Shamokin 2
Central Mountain (3-4) 2 7 6 0 – 15
Shamokin (1-6) 0 0 2 0 – 2
9:12 – (CM) Team Safety
3:19 – (CM) Justin Neff 7-yard run (Austyn Carson kick), 5-35, 1:23
8:56 – (CM) Justin Neff 7-yard run (run failed), 6-80, 3:04
3:08 – (S) Team Safety
First downs 15 11
Rushes-net yards 41-204 40-71
Passing yardage 0 61
Passing 0-2-0-0 9-15-0-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-0
Penalties-yards 6-55 7-63
RUSHING: Central Mountain: Cameron Ishler (16-75), Justin Neff (12-103-2), Tanner Weaver (8-29), Mahlik Houtz (3-18), Team (2-(-21)); Shamokin: Devin Pietkiewicz (21-47), Collin Bowers (10-3), David Stevens (6-8), Jake Jeremiah (2-23), Team (1-(-10))
PASSING: Central Mountain: Justin Neff (0-2-0-0-0); Shamokin: Collin Bowers (9-14-61-0-0), Team (0-1-0-0-0)
RECEIVING: Central Mountain: None; Shamokin: David Stevens (2-25), Marcus Dievert (2-13), Jake Jeremiah (2-2), Sam Deptula (1-15), Devin Pietkiewicz (1-6), Nathan Miller (1-0)
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