OLD FORGE — Most times the team that wins the turnover battle ends up victorious. While Old Forge only scored seven points off four Lackawanna Trail turnovers, the key defensive plays swayed the momentum in the Blue Devils favor.
Old Forge (5-1, 2-0 LFC Div. 3) outgained Lackawanna Trail, 330-175, and defeated the Lions, 27-13, in a Lackawanna Football Conference Division 3 game on Friday.
Blue Devils defensive back Joey Gutowski set up the first Old Forge touchdown by intercepting a pass by Trail freshman quarterback Nathan Rolka. Gutowski also connected with Jared Horn for 38 yards and Cooper Califano ran 41 yards for a touchdown with 6:39 left in the first quarter. Horn’s extra point gave Old Forge a 7-0 advantage.
The Lions answered on the ensuing drive when Anthony Berrios capped a 6-play, 36-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown after returning the kickoff 42 yards. The extra point by Thomas Huffsmith was no good.
Califano scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run with 7:50 remaining in the second quarter. Horn’s extra point gave the Blue Devils a 14-6 lead.
Armando Sallavanti intercepted a Rolka pass on the first play of Trail’s next possession, but the Blue Devils failed to convert the turnover into points when Horn misfired on a 25-yard field goal attempt.
“I thought we did a good job (defensively),” Lackawanna Trail head coach Steve Jervis said. “They are very good up front. Even though they were getting a little bit of a push, we didn’t let them take over the game.”
Lackawanna Trail moved the ball to the Old Forge 34-yard line late in the second quarter, but Rolka was intercepted by Gutowksi at the goal line on the final play of the first half.
“He’s a great player with a bright future, but he doesn’t have the experience so I took advantage of that,” Gutowski said of his two interceptions.
The Blue Devils increased their lead during the first possession of the second half when Gutowski scored on a 24-yard run to cap a seven-play drive after Horn returned the kickoff to midfield.
Berrios returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards to the Old Forge 32-yard line, but Rolka was intercepted by Gerald Hobbs at the 5-yard line, ending the scoring threat.
“I was very proud of our team’s effort,” Jervis said. “Our special teams (unit) put us in good field position a couple times. I wish we could have capitalized. We turned the ball over a couple times, but offensively we were able to execute enough to keep us in the game.”
Old Forge fullback Brendan Mozeleski scored the Blue Devils final touchdown of the game on a 15-yard run through the middle of the Lions defense with 11:55 left in the fourth quarter. Horn’s extra point try was no good.
After an 18-yard kickoff return from Tyler Baltrusaitis and two Old Forge penalties, the Lions had the ball at the Blue Devils 21-yard line. A 13-yard run by Thomas Huffsmith and a 5-yard pickup from Rocco Pacini moved the ball to the 1, but Trail couldn’t score.
Lackawanna Trail’s defense forced an Old Forge punt, and the Lions were able to find the end zone for the second time when Rolka connected with Matt Bergey for a 28-yard touchdown with 2:45 left in the game. Huffsmith added the extra point.
“They’re fighters,” Gutowski said. “They came out hard and never gave up. We might see them again in the playoffs so now we’ll know what to expect.”
Lackawanna Trail (2-5, 1-1) will travel to play Carbondale in a Lackawanna Football Conference Division 3 game at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.