Stingers stick to the ground to beat Trojans
SALTSBURG — With the patience and precision of a surgeon, the Marion Center Stingers’ offense operated on the heart of the Saltsburg Trojans’ defense and rolled on to a convincing 34-14 win last Friday at Saltsburg.
Saltsburg (0-2) will face off at home tonight against Penns Manor (2-0). Marion Center (2-0) will host the similarly unbeaten Homer-Center Wildcats.
Marion Center struck fast and hard at times last week but adopted a slower, methodical approach on some drives.
MC’s Jed Peterson drew quick first blood when he crossed the goal line in the first 41 seconds of the game.
Later, while the Trojans were reeling after giving up 22 points in the first quarter, the Stingers orchestrated a 13-play drive that ate up the majority of the second quarter. Starting at their own 35 and initially working backwards when the Trojans forced a two-yard loss and a huge 14-yard holding penalty, MC marched 81 yards to the end zone. Peterson capped off the drive with a three-yard plunge.
“Our offensive coordinator, Paul DeHaven called a great game tonight,” head coach Dave Malicky said. “Last week we were pounding the ball between the tackles, but we decided that we’d spread teams out more. We got great blocking from our split ends, good, fundamental downfield blocking, and our backs ran hard. Ryan (Lightcap, who scored a TD at the 5:34 mark of the first quarter) even ran some audibles that went our way. I just let Paul go do his thing, and I focus on the defense.”
DeHaven went the entire evening without calling a single passing play.
Defensively, the Stingers used their size advantage to smother the Trojan offense, giving up only three first downs in the first half and eight for the entire night. Michael Cavazza snagged an interception in the third quarter that sparked his team’s final scoring drive, cashed in by Garrett Wallace, and the defense forced two fumbles, one of which they were able to recover.
“I liked our defensive effort tonight,” Malicky said. “We were physical up front, and there was some sound fundamental tackling.”
Admittedly, Saltsburg coach Tim Frassenei saw indicators at halftime that the 15-game losing streak was wearing on his team. Instead of reviewing Xs and Os in the locker room, when the score was 28-0, Frassenei presented his team with a challenge.
“Our heads were hanging,” Frassenei said. “You get into these positions, and you just wait for the other shoe to drop.”
He explained how he put it to his team at what may be a critical point in the young season: “We were failing the test; it’s like studying all week for a big exam and then bombing it on Friday. I told them that we worked too hard to play like this, and to their credit, they came out and stepped it up in the second half.”
Unfortunately, most of the damage was done by then. The one-two punch of Jed Peterson, who rushed for two touchdowns and banged out 117 yards, and the slashing style of Justin LaMantia, who tallied a whopping 199 yards and a touchdown, helped the Stingers on the way to a 34-0 lead.
“Anyone could’ve run it to the open with the holes our line was opening up,” Peterson said. “The last time we were here, they snapped a long losing streak on us. We remembered how that felt, so we just wanted to take care of business tonight.”
Peterson was referring to the 2007 contest where Saltsburg ended a 19-game losing streak with a 24-14 spoiler.
“We have a lot of seniors back,” LaMantia explained, putting last week’s game into perspective, “and we have a big, strong line. So, we have high expectations for this season.”
Finally, the Trojans answered the call to break their egg with a 77-yard, seven-play scoring drive that started at the end of the third quarter and finished at the 10:34 mark of the final quarter when Derek Reese fell on a team fumble in the end zone.
The Trojans rounded out the scoring with another sustained, nine-play drive that started on their own 38 yard line. Cody Grguric took a one-yard dive into the end zone with 1:05 left on the clock.
Marion Center 22 6 6 0 – 34
Saltsburg 0 0 6 8 – 14
MC – Jed Peterson, 26 run (Peterson run)
MC – Ryan Lightcap, 1 run (Zach Anderson pass from Lightcap)
MC – Justin LaMantia, 10 run (pass failed)
MC – Peterson, 3 run (kick failed)
MC – Garrett Wallace, 19 run (kick failed)
S – Derek Reese, recovered fumble in end zone (kick failed)
S – Cody Grguric, 1 run (Vatter pass from Willett)
RUSHING: MC- Justin LaMantia 12-199, Jed Peterson 16-117, Garrett Wallace 5-38, Nick LaMantia 5-16, Ryan Lightcap 4-10, Chad Smyers 2-2, Bobby McGee 1-(-6); S- Tyler Johnson 11-81, Brent Willett6-58, Cody Grguric 6-15, Joe Bennett 2-11, Tim Vatter 1-0, Josh Riggleman 1-(-15).
PASSING: MC- None; S- Brent Willett 2-5-0-26, Josh Riggleman 1-6-1-2.
RECEIVING: MC- None; S- Dave Painter 1-16, Derek Reese 1-10, Cody Morris 1-2.
First downs 208