Saber playoff excitement ends in semis
BY JOBY FAWCETT
Susquehanna thought its solid season had been lost.
But with a little bit of help, the Sabers had built up enough of a margin for error, to reach the postseason. And thanks to that cushion, instead of turning in their uniforms, they earned a chance to play Friday night at top-seeded Lake-Lehman in the District 2 Class AA semifinals.
“At the beginning of the season, I’m not sure the kids were buying in, but we had some success after a couple of weeks,” Susquehanna first-year coach Kyle Cook said. “Then, you know what, we lost the Carbondale game and I saw how they were upset in the locker room and I just knew that they were emotionally tied in to this.
“I didn’t like seeing them like that, but I knew then that they cared.”
Susquehanna (5-5) has had a slow, but optimistic, start in Cook’s rookie season. There was a heart-breaking loss to Western Wayne where the defense yielded 349 yards rushing. And then they rebounded to battle Northwest – a District 2 Class A playoff team – in a close loss.
In Week 3, things began to turn around.
Against Nanticoke, the Sabers scored 21 first-half points and the defense let it hold up for Cook’s first win. After a loss to Riverside, Susquehanna went on a four-game tear where it defeated Lakeland, Holy Cross, Montrose and Lackawanna Trail. The defense gave up 20 points in the four games.
“We were just trying to do our best to stop the run and the pass,” Susquehanna defensive lineman Christian Miller said. “We started to get it going once we started making stops.”
Susquehanna’s offense also got rolling, averaging 29.5 points in the winning streak. Quarterback Austin White took command of the veer offense and he had two weapons in fullback Brett Hepler and running back Austin Felter.
“We were playing really good football,” Hepler said. ” ‘Whitey’ really started reading his keys and trusting the fullback and trusting himself running the ball.”
Playing with confidence, Susquehanna built a 19-13 lead on Carbondale Area after three quarters. But then, Hepler went down, and so did Lewis Esposito and defensive end Evan Aldrich, all lost to injuries and the Sabers lost the game 41-19.
And they followed that up with a loss to Old Forge that should have put their playoff hopes on ice.
But when Nanticoke defeated Hanover Area and Honesdale beat Mid Valley, the Sabers were in and rewarded for their month’s worth of good football.
Friday night, they faced the Lake-Lehman (9-1) team that is built on power and speed. The Black Knights have a pair of 1,000-yard backs in Dustin Jones and Joe Vigil.
The Sabers fell to the top seeded Black Knights, 35-0, at Lake Lehman.