UNION TWP. — These things aren’t always a bad omen. Especially not in the unpredictable District 2 playoffs.
But when Northwest put the ball on the ground on the first play from scrimmage, it was the start of a long Friday night.
Lackawanna Trail went up top for a touchdown pass on the very next play and kept firing away from there. The Lions scored on their first six drives of the game to capture the District 2 Class A championship with a 45-14 win over the Rangers.
“I’ve never been more proud of a group of kids,” Trail coach Steve Jervis said. “If you told me we’d be here … I just really believe they’ve been fighting. Small roster. Tough kids. I think tonight the deal was we were able to stay pretty balanced on offense.”
The Lions (8-3) will face the winner of Saturday’s District 1 Class A final between Jenkintown and Delco Christian next week with a spot in the state tournament on the line. Northwest’s season ended at 7-4.
Trail needed just 18 seconds to take the lead, recovering a fumble at the Rangers’ 35-yard line. Quarterback Nathan Rolka immediately threw deep on play action, hitting Tyler Baltrusaitis for the touchdown.
And though Northwest would answer on the next drive with a 39-yard scoring burst by standout Jake Anderson, the Rangers couldn’t stop the Lions offense from there.
Rolka threw for 134 yards and the tandem of Thomas Huffsmith (120 yards) and James Gillespie (78) scored two touchdowns apiece in the first half.
“We couldn’t tackle them earlier in the year and we couldn’t tackle them tonight,” said Northwest coach Lon Hazlet, referencing the Lions’ regular season win over the Rangers. “My kids played hard. We just didn’t tackle well. We weren’t as physical as we needed to be. They certainly were. Credit to the victor.”
Not helping matters was an uncharacteristically tough night for the Rangers’ punting game, which had kicks of 14, 11 and 10 yards in the first half to set up Lions’ touchdowns. A line drive kick in the third quarter was returned 52 yards by Baltrusaitis to paydirt.
Anderson led Northwest with 118 yards on the ground and a score. Fullback Jack Stancavage added a 1-yard plunge for a touchdown to close out the scoring.
Despite the tough finish, the Rangers had won six straight games after losing to the Lions back in September to win a conference title and qualify for the playoffs.
Northwest will have most of its skill position players returning for 2017 to try and take another run at a district title with Hazlet.
“We didn’t expect to be here tonight, and we certainly didn’t expect to play as poorly as we did tonight,” Hazlet said. “But at the same time, it was a great year, and I’m proud of the boys.
“We don’t lose a lot, and our goal will be to get back. … You can see that this hurt a lot. We’ve got a good group, they work hard and they need to have a tremendous offseason to get back to this point a year from now.”
District 2 Class A championship
Lackawanna Trail 45, Northwest 14
LT — Tyler Baltrusaitis 35 pass from Nathan Rolka (Rolka kick), 11:42
NW — Jake Anderson 39 run (Jack Wessler kick), 8:19
LT — Rolka 32 FG, 5:46
LT — James Gillespie 23 run (kick failed), 2:17
LT — Thomas Huffsmith 37 run (Rolka kick), 11:26
LT — Gillespie 9 run (Rolka kick), 8:43
LT — Huffsmith 9 run (Berrios run), 6:31
LT — Baltrusaitis 52 punt return (Rolka kick), 6:41
NW — Jack Stancavage 1 run (Wessler kick), 2:21
RUSHING — LT, Thomas Huffsmith 14-120, James Gillespie 10-78, Justin Carey 3-14, Anthony Berrios 5-10, Quinn Jagoe 2-3, Nathan Rolka 2-0, Jordan Edwards 1-(minus-4). NW, Jake Anderson 18-118, David Piestrak 13-18, Jack Stancavage 3-8, Colton Babcock 4-8, Ezra Judge 1-0, Zach Carr 1-(minus-3).
PASSING — LT, Rolka 5-10-0-134. NW, Piestrak 3-7-0-47, Brandon Hardiman 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING — LT, Matt Bergey 2-58, Tyler Baltrusaitis 1-35, Huffsmith 1-22, Zac Cost 1-19. NW, Dylan Womelsdorf 1-26, Judge 1-24, Connor Hazlet 1-(minus-3).
INTERCEPTIONS — LT, Bergey.
MISSED FGs — None.
Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse