The Old Forge football team is eagerly anticipating what is ahead, but on Senior Night, the Blue Devils took a little time to celebrate what they have done to date.
They also added to their lengthy list of accomplishments with their latest dominant performance.
Powered by a 40-point second quarter, Old Forge rolled over playoff-bound Susquehanna, 55-12, to lock up its third straight Lackawanna Football Conference Division 3 title.
“It’s a great compliment to the kids, these seniors who have been here and were forced into duty as sophomores when not much was expected of them,” Old Forge coach Mike Schuback said of the string of division titles. “They just kept building.
“We always say here, we want to just keep building to the foundation of the program; leave it better than you found it. There’s no doubt these seniors have done that.”
Following that first title division title, which led to a District 2 Class A championship and state playoff appearance, expectations have remained high for a talented group of Blue Devils, who are nearing the completion of their high school career.
Old Forge produced a perfect regular season in 2012 and suffered just one loss while being tested only twice this season.
The Blue Devils have won 15 straight LFC Division 3 games since missing out on a title shot with a loss at Susquehanna in the 2010 regular-season finale. They have won 24 of 25 regular-season games since a painful one-point loss to Riverside in 2011. And, they have crushed six opponents by a total of 316-63 since dropping a five-point decision to Dunmore in a battle of state-ranked teams earlier this season.
The Division 3 portion of the schedule was a mere formality for the Blue Devils while waiting to pursue bigger goals. They beat all five division opponents in Mercy Rule games – eight of nine wins overall ended under a running clock to soften the blow on overmatched opponents – by outscoring them 203-7 combined in the first half.
“By playing fast, we put a lot of pressure on the defense,” Schuback said. “We want to pace you out. We want to get as many offensive snaps as we can.
“We want to keep it moving and lean on you.”
The part of the season they’ve been waiting for starts with a Friday night District 2 Class A semifinal against Northwest and the expected rematch with Dunmore.
Dunmore won the 2012 district final, 7-6, over Old Forge then rolled all the way to the state championship game.
Their first meeting since was the most anticipated game of the LFC regular season. The Blue Devils have been waiting for the rematch ever since.
Last year, Old Forge was unbeaten but Dunmore won the rematch of LFC division champs in the District 2 final. This year, the LFC Division 2 champion Bucks are the ones who are unbeaten and top-seeded.
All that build-up makes it possible to almost forget what the team has managed so far.
“I’m not trying to boast, but we kind of do forget that,” senior Shane Schuback said. “ … We work really hard and sometimes we take that for granted. But tonight, I think we’re really going to be happy and celebrate the moment.”
On a night when his father was among those honored at halftime on the 25th anniversary of Old Forge’s 1988 Suburban Conference championship, Shane again joined Brandon Yescavage, Jake Manetti and Jorden Sekol at the forefront of another rout for the 9-1 Blue Devils.
Yescavage had three of his four touchdowns, Manetti passed to Schuback for two scores and Sekol provided the longest scoring play when Old Forge packed seven touchdowns into less than 13 minutes of action. That stretch turned an 8-0 struggle in the first minute of the second quarter into a 55-0 romp just two plays into the second half.
While 290-pound, two-way lineman Ryan Paulish looked on from the pressbox to protect an injured knee that he hopes to have healed in time for the district final, his teammates tore apart the Sabers.
Yescavage carried 14 times for 116 yards and four touchdowns, doing all his work in the first half. He kept his season average a shade above 10 yards per carry while building his totals to 1,687 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Schuback caught six passes for 79 yards, including two touchdowns in the final minute of the first half. He leads the team in receiving, ranks second in tackles and scoring and is third in rushing. Schuback has turned 20 catches into 368 yards (18.4 average) and six touchdowns while using his 16 runs to add 268 yards (16.8 average) and another six scores.
Manetti threw the two touchdown passes while running his team-leading interception total to five with two more picks. He returned two of those interceptions for scores earlier this season and brought another one back 51 yards to the 3 during one of the four stretches that Old Forge scored twice in 81 seconds or less Friday.
Sekol, the team’s leading tackler in the game and on the season, broke a 76-yard run 1:18 into the third quarter, ending the night for the Old Forge starting offense.
By then, it was time to celebrate and rest up for the bigger games ahead.