Old Forge’s Anthony Conforti hits Northwest QB Gunner Majer on Friday night in the Devils’ Den.photo by angela ceccarelli
Old Forge linebacker Anthony Trotta (63) has a hold of Northwest quarterback Gunner Majer during the Blue Devils 35-8 victory over the Rangers on Friday night.photo by angela ceccarelli
Old Forge made a statement from the first play of the game that its defense would control its early season showdown with District 2 Class 1A foe Northwest on Friday night.
And what a statement it was.
The Blue Devils picked off Rangers’ quarterback Gunner Majer’s first pass of the game, and held the Rangers to just 12 yards rushing as it dominated the line of scrimmage on its way to a 35-8 victory at Old Forge Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“Joey Ciuccio is off the ball better than anybody right now,” said Old Forge Head Coach Mike Schuback of his senior defensive end who has five sacks and four fumble recoveries in three games. “He understands what’s going on with our defense. He does what is asked of him. He doesn’t play out of the defense. He is just playing within the team concept.
“I can’t be happier from the defensive line stand point (Anthony) Conforti is back healthy at D-Tackle. (Paul) Papi, Tony (DeSando), Tippy (Tyler Clark) are all jumping in there and giving us something. Cory Stuart right off the bat on the interception, pressuring the quarterback, make a statement. Our rotation is as solid as it has ever been. We’ve never had this depth with lineman that could run.”
After Old Forge linebacker Ryan Cadwalder picked off Majer’s pass at his own 27-yard line to start the game, the Blue Devils drove 62 yards where they had first-and-10 from the Northwest 11. But Dalton Tomko returned the favor for the Rangers, picking off a Colin Carey pass on his own 4-yard line to keep Old Forge out of the endzone.
It wouldn’t matter as the Blue Devils held Northwest to minus-2 yards on first and second down, and after a Majer incompletion, Old Forge forced Northwest to punt.
DeSando got free and blocked Dalton Tomko’s punt after the senior had trouble with the snap. He then pounced on the loose pigskin to put Old Forge on the board, 6-0. Matt Mancuso’s first of three successful extra-points was good, and the Blue Devils led 7-0 with 7:11 remaining in the first quarter.
“It felt really good to score a touchdown,” said DeSando. “There was an opening and I just shot through and got there. Then I jumped on the football.”
Old Forge forced Northwest to punt on its next two possessions before taking over first-and-10 on the Rangers 16 to open the second quarter after Carey completed a pass to Anthony Piccolini for 20 yards and scrambled for another 10. The Blue Devils held Northwest to just five total yards in the first quarter.
But the drive stalled after two incompletions and a 2-yard run by Carey after Northwest had declined a holding penalty on Old Forge to force fourth-and-8
The Blue Devils were content to settle for a 30-yard field goal try as they trotted Mancuso out to kick. But the Rangers jumped off sides, and Old Forge went for it on fourth-and-3, converting when Carey ran six yards on a keeper to the Northwest 3.
Three plays later Lou Febbo hit paydirt from 1-yard out to put the Blue Devils ahead, 14-0 with 9:47 left in the second period.
“They block for me so I have no problem blocking for anyone else,” said Febbo who rushed for 111 yards on 10 carries after going the entire first quarter without a carry. “It’s easy when your offensive line is doing the job like they did tonight. They made me look good out there.”
Febbo scored again on the Blue Devils next possession, capping an eight-play drive with a 2-yard burst up the middle to put Old Forge ahead, 21-0, with 4:38 left in the first half.
The Blue Devils defense was dominating in the first half, allowing just seven yards on nine rushes and forcing Majer into a 5-for-13 performance. Majer did throw for 90 yards in the opening 24 minutes – 59 of which came on a hook up with Tyler Pegarella after Old Forge went ahead by three scores.
But the Blue Devils held after the play set the Rangers up on the Old Forge eight by forcing three straight incompletions after Majer ran for two yards on first down.
Old Forge opened the second half with a 32-yard kickoff return by Mike Vieira, coupled with a personal foul facemask penalty on the Rangers which put the Blue Devils on the Northwest 34.
Five plays later, Carey hit Febbo with a middle screen pass on fourth-and-11 which the senior tailback broke for a 25-yard touchdown run after great blocks from sophomore guard Paul Papi and senior wideout Dave Argust. Mancuso’s kick was wide right, but Old Forge was in control, 27-0, with 9:24 left.
The Old Forge defense then dug in, sacking Majer twice on the next possession with both DeSando and Ciuccio getting to the 6’3, 230-pound signal caller. On the second sack, Ciuccio pried the ball lose from Majer and recovered the fumble at the Blue Devils 39.
“We really went back to our roots this week,” said Ciuccio. “We really stepped up and made some big plays and big tackles tonight.”
Old Forge added its final score with 2:17 left in the third quarter when Carey found Vieira in the back of the endzone for a 19-yard touchdown. Carey then completed the two-point pass to Argust, and the Mercy Rule went into effect with the 35-0 lead.
Carey finished the night 16-for-25 for 193 yards.
“I told them before the game, the only team that could beat you is yourselves,” said Schuback. “If you don’t turn the ball over, and you don’t make mistakes, you are going to win football games.”