Warriors embrace next-man-up mentality
Machado, Studsrud played big roles in Balcarcel’s absence.
Delaware Valley’s leaders never panicked.
Josh Balcarcel, one of the standout athletes, leading rusher and emotional spark plug for the Warriors all season, injured his lower leg in the District 2 Class 6A championship game against Wilkes-barre Area.
A hush fell over the sideline as he received assistance off the frozen turf, did not return, but stayed standing on crutches to support his teammates.
Preston Machado and Matt Studsrud raised their efforts and helped the Warriors capture a fourth straight district championship. And they will continue to be a source of energy as Delaware Valley opens the PIAA Class 6A playoffs against State College, the District 6 champion, on Friday at Hazleton Area’s Harman-geist Stadium.
“As soon as Josh went down, we all just came together and realized that we all needed to do a little more because we had worked so hard for a chance to win this championship,” Studsrud, 17, said.
Studsrud and Machado are not new to playing important roles in the big games.
Last season, both started in the secondary for the Warriors in another championship season.
They were in the lineup against State College in the 2018 first-round state playoff game, which ended as a 56-19 loss.
Machado had seven tackles and an interception in the game and Studsrud contributed four tackles.
“We were a young team last year,” Machado, 16, said. “Now we know what to expect against a team like State College. We have to be prepared and play as good a game as we can play.”
Machado and Studsrud have been outstanding in the secondary.
Machado, who is a junior, is second on the team in tackles. He had a huge effort with 11 tackles in an opening season loss to Pennridge and at the end of the season, he had back-to-back double-digit tackles in the playoffs with 10 against Scranton and 14 against Wilkes-barre Area.
Studsrud has been a playmaker all season. He has 42 tackles with a team-high seven interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“I have just been staying on my guy, reading the quarterback and trying to stay with the receiver to make a play,” Studsrud said.
Against Wilkes-barre Area, with their teammate out of action, each rose to the challenge.
In addition to his defensive contributions, Machado filled in as the team’s weapon in the running game. He entered the game with only 26 carries in the team’s first 11 games, but kept pounding at the defense and had 21 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown.
“I felt great,” Machado said. “Once I got going and kind of settled in, I was good to go and just stayed really focused on doing my best for the team.” Studsrud had his best game defensively against the Wolfpack. He had eight tackles and an interception to help keep Wilkes-barre Area’s explosive attack from making enough big plays to upset the Warriors.
“When Josh went down, we all just knew that we needed to make plays,” Studsrud said. “I just did what I could to help the team win, whether it was covering receivers or making tackles.”
Against State College, the Warriors will face a balanced offense and a rugged defense.
Brady Dorner has thrown for 1,601 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, while junior Dresyn Green has run for 1,086 yards and 18 touchdowns. Isaiah Edwards and Lokey Howell have combined for 62 receptions and 11 touchdowns, while sophomore Ryan Domico leads the team with 93 tackles for the Little Lions.
“We are excited,” Studsrud said. “I just think we will be more ready this year.”