Tyler Lasher knew the ball was coming his way. And the Dunmore junior made sure he got his hands up to knock down the pass.
Lasher broke up Jake Manetti’s last-second throw in the end zone as the Bucks held off Old Forge twice at the 10-yard line in the fourth quarter for a 21-16 victory between two state-ranked Class A teams.
Dunmore (4-0) remains undefeated while the Blue Devils fall to 3-1.
“We are fortunate to get out with a win,” Dunmore head coach Jack Henzes said. “We were able to take advantage of some of their mistakes, and we capitalized on them. Their quarterback is a great athlete and he tried to make a nice play at the end. Our defense stepped up and made a play.”
Old Forge, bit hard by the turnover bug, gave itself two incredible opportunities in the final quarter.
The first drive, which started on its own 38, advanced all the way to a first-and-goal at the Dunmore 10 – only to see the Bucks stop three straight runs and force a Manetti incomplete pass on fourth down.
Then, following a Dunmore safety after the ball was snapped over quarterback Brandon Kujawski’s head and landed in the end zone, the Blue Devils had one last hope.
Old Forge (3-1) took advantage of a short field and drove to the Dunmore 10. Lasher batted down a pass on first down and the Bucks stopped the Devils on two consecutive runs to force the final fourth down with 1:22 left.
Manetti scrambled around the pocket, went backward about 10 yards and heaved a pass toward the back of the end zone. Lasher was there, leaping in the air to break up the pass.
“Teams usually target me because our other corner Shakal (Blackwell) is so talented,” Lasher said. “I had a good read on it. Their quarterback was running back and forth, and I knew that I had to stay with my guy.
“Everyone stepped up in the second half. Everyone played great. We were confident that we could hold them.”
Turnovers, three in all, hurt Old Forge.
The Devils fumbled the opening kick, and on the very next play, Kujawski found Josh Zilla for a 35-yard touchdown pass after Zilla slipped behind the secondary. Not even 20 seconds into the game, the Bucks had a 7-0 lead.
The game-winning score was also set up after a turnover when the Bucks recovered an Old Forge fumble on the 8-yard line late in the third quarter. Two Daiqwon Buckley runs later, and Dunmore had a 21-14 lead. Buckley finished with 110 yards on 19 carries.
“The headline in the paper should be turnovers,” Old Forge head coach Michael Schuback said. “We turned the ball over, and gave them gifts. They are a great football team, and the best-coached football team we’ve played against. You can’t give them the ball around the 5-yard line and not expect them to score. The bottom line is we can’t turn the ball over, and our young kids need to play with confidence, and they didn’t.”
Brandon Yescavage did everything possible to keep Old Forge around. He carried 35 times for 156 yards and scored twice. His second touchdown gave the Devils a 14-7 lead at halftime.
“This is a sour one to walk away from,” Schuback said. “I told the kids that I expect to be back here. I expect to be on this field in the playoffs. It’s disappointing because I know we had a great effort. I think this is a lesson learned. You can’t turn the ball over.”