SHUT IT DOWN

Prep’s de­fense knows its mis­sion against Loy­al­sock

The Times-Tribune - - Sports - BY MARTY MY­ERS STAFF WRITER

Scran­ton Prep and Loy­al­sock have been of­fen­sive night­mares for op­po­nents, Prep av­er­ag­ing 33.2 points per game, the Lancers, 34.2.

Both have stand­out in­di­vid­u­als at quar­ter­back, run­ning back and re­ceiver.

But Fri­day’s game at Wil­liamsport High School might come down to which team can make more stops with its de­fense.

The Cava­liers’ de­fense will face a big test when it takes on Loy­al­sock in a 7 p.m. kick­off to the PIAA Class 3A play­offs.

“He looks like a good quar­ter­back,” Prep cor­ner­back Sam Dick­son said of Con­nor Watkins, who has thrown for 29 touch­downs and 2,331 yards. “It will be tough. The run­ning back (Cole Ca­vanaugh, 1,036 yards) is good sized. We’ll have to con­tain him. Me and the cor­ners have a lit­tle bit of a tougher matchup but we’ll see what we can do.”

The Lancers (8-4) also have a near 1,000yard re­ceiver in Ger­ald Ross (976, 14 TDs).

“I looked a lit­tle bit at them on film,” said Dick­son, who leads Prep (12-0) with seven in­ter­cep­tions and in re­ceiv­ing with 21 catches. “They look like a good team.”

Loy­al­sock poses a chal­lenge the Cava­liers haven’t faced this year, at least at this level.

“Ob­vi­ously, they throw the ball a lit­tle bit more than some of the schools around here,” Prep coach Terry Gal­lagher said. “(Watkins is) a good foot­ball player. I re­mem­ber watch­ing him last year when we pre­pared for Mon­toursville. They played Loy­al­sock last year and Loy­al­sock beat them.

“He ex­tends the play, and when he ex­tends the play, even when he ad libs, he’ll go deep. He’s got a great arm. He’s an ath­letic kid.

“So, it’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge, just like ev­ery other week. Hope­fully we can play our brand of foot­ball and come out on top.”

That brand of foot­ball in­cludes a pun­ish­ing de­fense that has lim­ited op­po­nents to 7.1 points per game.

“We’re play­ing as a team, play­ing with a lot of heart,” Dick­son said. “We just want to win. We have each other’s backs.

“Since I’ve been on this team, three years ago, we’ve al­ways been to­gether, al­ways been a strong unit. No mat­ter what, if an in­jury comes up, it’s about a whole team.”

Ques­tion is, can Loy­al­sock, al­low­ing 20 points per game, slow down the high-oc­tane Cava­liers, es­pe­cially with ju­nior quar­ter­back Leo O’Boyle step­ping up his game in re­cent weeks. He’s thrown 10 TDs in the last three while com­plet­ing 71 per­cent (22 of 31) of his passes.

“I think our pass­ing game has im­proved dras­ti­cally over the past few weeks,” Gal­lagher said. “Ob­vi­ously, it’s his first year start­ing this year, and I think he got bet­ter and bet­ter each and ev­ery week. I think he’s learned when to move out of the pocket, when to take chances, when to gam­ble, when not to. He’s a special kid.

“Our re­ceivers have picked it up. They feel com­fort­able with him. But again I think we got kids in the mix. Some guys went down, some guys got hurt. We had a bunch of kids that came in that re­placed other guys, so we’re def­i­nitely deeper than we’ve been in the past.”

CHRISTO­PHER DOLAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Scran­ton Prep cor­ner­back Sam Dick­son is part of a de­fense al­low­ing 7.1 points per game this sea­son.

CHRISTO­PHER DOLAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Scran­ton Prep’s Sam Dick­son (6) runs the ball dur­ing the District 2 Class 3A foot­ball cham­pi­onship against Lake-Lehman.

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