NTL FOOTBALL: WYALUSING BLANKS TOWANDA, 25-0, IN BRONZE HELMET GAME (24 PHOTOS)
(2020-09-11) BY TIM TAYLOR
Northern Tier Sports Report
TOWANDA — As the clocked ticked away during the Bronze Helmet game here Friday night, it became more and more apparent that the more advantageous team would emerge with a victory.
Wyalusing, behind a strong fourth-quarter push, pulled away from host Towanda, 25-0, in the season opener for both teams.
"A typical first game. It was a little sloppy, but we picked up a win," said Wyalusing coach Jimmy Buchman. "We have the potential to score a lot of points. A play here, a play there, and a hold which brings back a touchdown. We've just got to clean those things up, and I think it comes with game experience and things like that.
"We're still pretty young on offense. We only have three seniors on offense," added Buchman.
"We just had some adversity. We had to overcome it, and I thought the kids did a great job overcoming the adversity they could overcome," said Towanda coach Craig Dawsey. "It just didn't happen to be our night tonight. Sometimes that happens."
The Rams grabbed a 6-0 edge at the half, but only led by a dozen points heading into the fourth quarter.
With 4:17 remaining in the game, the visitors put the game away. Senior running back Alex Mosier battled his way through the Black Knights' defense on a 12-yard touchdown run giving Wyalusing an 18-0 cushion.
The TD was set up after the first of two Jacob Bruyn interceptions, followed by some solid throws by senior quarterback Mitchell Burke.
Bruyn picked off the pigskin at his own 34, then, following a 4-yard run by Alex Mosier, Burke completed four straight passes, three going to junior wide receiver Kashawn Cameron for a combined 36 yards. The final reception resulted in a horse-collar tackle and a penalty, moving the ball half-the-distance to the goal line, giving the Rams a first-and-10 just outside the Towanda 12.
Bruyn would snare another pick at his own 35, then managed to weave his way downfield to the Towanda 33. On the next play, Burke hit junior end Isiah Way on a quick slant for the game's final TD. The Rams, who had been unsuccessful on three prior PAT runs, opted to kick the extra point and junior Tyler Brigham put it through the uprights to make it 25-0.
"We had opportunities that we didn't really capitalize on earlier in the game, but I think as the game wore on and we kind of dug our heels in a little bit, things went our way a little bit," Buchman said.
"It's still Towanda. Regardless of if they're young, they're still tough. He's a good coach. It's a good program."
It just wasn't meant to be Towanda's night, despite an impressive showing by new QB Mason Johnson.
A senior, Johnson inherited the quarterback role following the graduation of Tanner Kunkle. On the second play from scrimmage, he ran a keeper up the gut, then broke to the sideline for a 30-yard dash. However, he suffered an injury on the play. Johnson sat out the next two plays, in which the Knights went backwards 10 yards on a fumbled snap and a sack, then came in to hit senior receiver Haven Benjamin-Fee for a 13-yard gain to the Ram 32 before turning the ball over on downs.
Johnson appeared to suffer a knee injury, but the severity still has to be confirmed.
"We're going to find out Monday," Dawsey said. "He just got dinged up a little bit, but I think he'll be OK."
The coach is ready to turn to sophomore QB Mitchell Mosier if necessary.
"It affected us from the standpoint of bringing somebody in that didn't get all the reps that Mason got, but I think who we brought in, we're really proud of how he played," Dawsey said. "He just started playing quarterback in July, so he gets thrown into a game like this. He's threw the ball pretty well, but he's going to get better. He's a great competitor and a great young man, so we're looking forward to working with him if Mason can't go."
The Rams moved the ball out near midfield on their initial possession before punting, but got it back when the Knights were called for an illegal substitution. Towanda attempted to call a time out on the play, but was unsuccessful and the visitors had a first down. Two plays later, Wyalusing fumbled the ball back to their host, only to see the Knights lose 26 yards on a high snap on a punt attempt. That gave the Rams the ball at the Towanda 25, but two penalties squelched their efforts.
Following a Towanda three-and-out, Cameron returned a punt 40 yards to paydirt, only to have the score called back on a holding penalty. Wyalusing would turn the ball over on downs and the Knights would go through another three-and-out. This time, the Rams took advantage as another high snap on a punt attempt gave them the ball at the 1. Burke punched it in on the next play to make it 6-0 at 10:31 of the second period.
The Knights fumbled the ball away on their next two possessions, but would only trail by six at the half.
Cameron opened the second half with a 28-yard kick return to midfield. Eight runs and two Towanda offsides penalties later, the Rams were back on the scoreboard with another 1-yard run by Burke at 7:43 of the third period for a 12-0 lead.
Towanda appeared to get a much-needed break when the Rams muffed a punt deep in their own end and a Knights player pounced on the loose ball. Following a referees' conference, it was ruled a Towanda player was too close to the punt returner on the play.
The Knights forced a turnover on downs and finally found the end zone on the next series. Mitchell Mosier found Trent Kithcart open near midfield, and the senior end managed two shake a pair of defenders and race to the end zone, only to have the play called back due to a block-in-the-back penalty.
Wyalusing finished the night with 227 yards, despite nine plays which resulted in negative yardage. Burke went 12-for-19 through the air for 116 yards and added 48 more on the ground. Way and Cameron caught four passes apiece, for 50 and 44 yards, respectively. Alex Mosier had 10 carries for 58 yards.
Johnson led the Knights with 30 yards rushing, Brock Fenton had 28 and Kithcart 26.
"We need to focus on stopping the run and running the ball, because we were dead last in the league in both those categories last year," Buchman said.
IN PHOTO 1: Wyalusing's Mitchell Burke. ... PHOTOS BY ED BOARDMAN.
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