BY JOBY FAWCETT
Players hugged family and friends, shedding tears as they basked in their moment of glory beneath the fading glare of the setting sun.
Susquehanna celebrated a championship for the first time since 1995, reveling in a convincing, 28-13, win over Old Forge on Saturday afternoon at William Emminger Memorial Field. The Sabers finished 5-0 in the Lackawanna Football Conference Division III and 9-1 overall, clinching the No. 3 seed for the District 2 Class AA playoffs.
“This means the world to me,” Susquehanna senior lineman Mark Wilchock said. “It’s nice when a team like Susquehanna comes out and wins a championship like this.”
Old Forge ends at 4-1, having its 14-game division winning streak snapped, and is 7-3 heading into the District 2 Class A playoffs where it will host Dunmore on Friday.
Next week, Susquehanna will travel to Lakeland. Before preparation begins, however, the Sabers will enjoy their first win over Old Forge since 1997 and the completion of a long, mostly bumpy journey back to the top of the conference standings.
Coming into this season, Susquehanna had only 27 wins in the last 10 seasons, making this moment one the players will treasure.
“Coming from where Susquehanna football was and for us to have an opportunity like this, we knew we couldn’t lose,” Susquehanna senior fullback Nick Marco said.
Susquehanna’s veer offense, rated first in the division, proved too powerful to stop.
Running behind a dominating effort from the offensive line, quarterback Dan Kempa, running backs Cole Mallery and Greg Price, and Marco combined for 282 yards on 52 carries.
“I can’t even explain how much this win means to us,” Mallery said.
On the signature drive, the Sabers went 98 yards in 14 plays bridging the end of the third with the start of the fourth, making it 28-7, while getting the party started in the stands.
“We just believed we could do it,” said Wilchock, wincing as he balanced on a knee weakened by a torn ACL. “Our line played good and we pushed them back. We created a new line of scrimmage.”
Susquehanna’s defense turned in an equally impressive performance.
Old Forge ran for 33 yards in the first half and had only two first downs. Only a late scoring drive, that covered 20 yards, kept the Blue Devils in the game at 14-7.
In the second half, however, Susquehanna had an interception and a fumble recovery, never really losing control of the game.
And Mallery had scoring runs of 64 and 8 yards in the second half to lead the Sabers.
“They wanted this more than we did,” Old Forge coach Michael Schuback said. “I give a lot of credit to coach (Dick) Bagnall and his kids.”
Old Forge 0 7 0 6 – 13
Susquehanna 7 7 7 7 – 28
First Downs 6 17
Rushing-Yards 24-139 54-280
Comp-Att-Int 9-24-3 2-7-0
Passing Yards 60 37
Total Yards 199 317
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-0
Penalties-Yards 4-31 4-22
Rushing: SUS – D. Kempa 23-87, 1 TD; C. Mallery 8-72, 2 TDs; N. Marco 12-68; G. Price 9-55; Team 2-(-2).
Passing: SUS – D. Kempa 2-7-0, 37, 1 TD.
Receiving: SUS – A. Cowperthwait 1-30, 1 TD; G. Price 1-7.
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