FACTORYVILLE — It’s always important to score first, especially in the playoffs, and Lackawanna Trail totaled 25 points before Holy Cross even picked up a first down.
Using a balanced rushing and passing attack, Lackawanna Trail defeated Holy Cross, 45-6, in the semifinals of the District 2 Class A football playoffs on Friday, Nov. 13 at Lions Pride Stadium.
Trail’s offensive line, which controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the game, played a big role in the Lions first touchdown of the game.
The Lions ran the ball on the first nine plays, including a 17-yard touchdown from Thomas Huffsmith to cap the possession. After an offside penalty from Holy Cross on the extra point attempt, Trail’s Tyler Baltrusaitis ran in the two-point conversion off a direct snap.
“It was really important to just smack them in the mouth on that first drive, and that’s what we did,” Huffsmith said.
Lackawanna Trail’s defense, which limited the Crusaders to 45 yards in the first half, also played a big role in the victory.
Holy Cross (2-9) moved the ball into Lackawanna Trail territory at the 40-yard line on its opening drive of the game, but Matt Bergey’s hit on Josh Mies jarred the ball loose and Tom Kohinsky recovered the fumble.
“It’s goes all the way back to the Carbondale game to start the second half of the season,” Jervis said about the play of the Lions defense. “We won that game 15-7, but we didn’t give up a touchdown (on defense) in that game, we shut out two other opponents down the stretch and we played very well defensively tonight. A lot of credit goes to coach Jim Becchetti, coach Jason Wagner and coach Chad Gibbs. They do a great job with our defense and it has definitely improved a ton (as a unit).”
Baltrusaitis, who was one of nine Lackawanna Trail players to carry the football, scored on a 6-yard run, after a 21-yard pass from Nathan Rolka to Huffsmith, to give the Lions a 15-0 lead.
After the Trail defense stopped Holy Cross’ Dylan Michalek a yard short on fourth down, the Lions added three more points on a 27-yard field goal from Huffsmith.
Looking for a spark, Holy Cross attempted a fake punt deep in its own territory midway through the second quarter, but the play lost four yards. The Lions took advantage of the miscue when Rolka connected with tight end Steven Scioscia for a 2o-yard touchdown on the next play.
“The (offensive) line didn’t allow anybody to get any pressure on me, so I had time to make my reads and deliver a good ball,” Rolka said. “They really played well both run and pass blocking. We’re starting to play together and mesh as a team at the right time.”
Scioscia intercepted a pass during the Crusaders next possession and Rolka connected with Bergey, three plays later, for a 10-yard touchdown.
Scioscia credits the guys up front for the team’s resurgence over the second half of the season.
“It all starts with our defensive line,” Scioscia said. “They have been working hard and our practices have been a lot more intense.”
Lackawanna Trail (6-5) continued its dominance into the second half of the game.
First, the Lions defense limited Holy Cross to four yards on its first possession. Then, Huffsmith ran 33 yards for a touchdown to give Trail a 38-0 advantage.
Another Holy Cross turnover in the third quarter led to more Lackawanna Trail points when Anthony Berrios scored on an 8-yard run after Shawn Jones recovered a fumble.
Holy Cross finally broke through when Josh Mies scored on an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter. Mies was stopped short on a two-point conversion attempt.
Second-seeded Lackawanna Trail will travel to play top-seed Old Forge (10-1) for the district title at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.