Above, Old Forge’s Joey Ciuccio tackles Susquehanna quarterback Sean Stanley during the Blue Devils victory over the Sabers. Below left, OF tailback Lou Febbo tries to keep his balance on a big run on Friday night. Below right, Colin Carey looks upfield on on of his 11 carries against Susquehanna. Carey rushed for 90 yards and three touchdowns in the division-clinching victory.photos by angela ceccarelli
On the cusp of winning his first football championship last season when Old Forge traveled to Susquehanna, co-captain Anthony Trotta wasn’t about to let the Sabers again take away what the Blue Devils have come to feel is rightfully theirs – the Lackawanna Football Conference Division III title.
So the senior linebacker recorded 15 tackles and led a big night for the Old Forge defense in a 22-15 win over Susquehanna to claim the Blue Devils fourth LFC Division III crown in six years on Senior Parents Night at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Friday.
Trotta also got a little help from his friends.
Sophomore linebacker Jorden Sekol also recorded 15 tackles for the Blue Devils, but the first-year starter put his stamp on the game with an interception and a blocked punt. Both plays led to two Colin Carey second-half touchdowns.
“(Jorden) has taken everything in stride,” said Trotta. “I am trying to teach him what I know, and in turn he’s been able to give me tips. As the season has gone on we have learned each other’s game and how to play with each other. It’s made both of us better football players as the season has gone on.
“He’s been learning every week and is a long way from done. He is going to be a great football player.”
Old Forge needed the big plays from Sekol and the defense despite controlling much of the game on the offensive side of the football.
The Blue Devils opened the game with a 13-play, 56-yard drive to the Susquehanna 7. But the Sabers forced an incompletion on fourth down to halt the scoring opportunity.
On the Sabers first play from scrimmage, Trotta tackled quarterback Sean Stanley for a four-yard loss from the seven, and on the next play, defensive end Cory Stuart tackled Stanley in the endzone for a safety and a 2-0 Old Forge lead with 6:30 showing on the first quarter clock.
Susquehanna stopped the Blue Devils on its ensuing possession and went on a drive of its own. The Sabers chewed up 55 yards on the ground, including Greg Price’s seven-yard touchdown run with 1:12 left in the opening period. Austin Cowpertwait’s extra-point was good, and the defending division champs led 7-2.
The teams exchanged two fruitless possessions before Carey scored his first touchdown of the game.
After an incompletion on first down from the 50, Carey hit Dave Argust on an out for 12 yards before finding a wide open Mike Vieira for 15 yards to set the Blue Devils up at the Sabers 23.
On the next play, Carey scampered 23 yards to paydirt to give Old Forge an 8-7 lead with 1:57 left before intermission. The two-point run failed.
Susquehanna tried to get back on the board before the teams went to halftime after a return on the ensuing kickoff to the Old Forge 35. But on first-and-10 at the 20, junior defensive back Anthony Piccolini intercepted a Stanley pass at the 1 to end the threat.
Each team punted to open the second half before Sekol struck for the first time.
On third-and-10 from his own 42, Stanley rolled right and fired a strike – right to Sekol who was in the middle of the field at the 50 with no Saber receivers around him. The 6’2, 175-pound defender then turned offensive, and returned his second career interception to the Susquehanna 17.
“I had to drop back in my zone and I just stole it off him,” said Sekol. “Anthony Trotta has really helped me get better, helping me out with my reads and everything. I was thinking touchdown when I caught it.”
But the touchdown was destined for Carey, who snuck it in from the 1 after he hit Argust for 11 yards on first down and ran for another four yards on first-and-goal from the 6. An offsides penalty on the Sabers moved the ball to the one-yard line before Carey cashed in. Matt Mancuso drilled the extra-point to give Old Forge a 15-7 lead with 5:50 to go in the third quarter.
Susquehanna did not waste any time responding.
The Sabers got another big kick return, this time to the Old Forge 31. Five plays later, Stanley hit Cowpertwait in the left side of the sound endzone for a 12-yard touchdown. Stanley then went untouched into the corner of the endzone to tie the game at 15-15 with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
The game began to look like the offensive show everyone was expecting on Old Forge’s next drive when Carey hit Elijah Wilson for 16 yards and then Piccolini for 37 on the first two plays from scrimmage to give the Blue Devils first-and-goal from the 4. But the Sabers stood tall, stopping Lou Febbo on three running plays before forcing Carey into an incompletion on fourth down to take the ball back.
With momentum swinging back to the Sabers, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew was about to allow it to escalate.
Trotta stopped Price for one-yard on first down from the four, and Joey Ciuccio tackled Stanley in the backfield on second down for the two-yard loss. Then on third-and-11, Ciuccio and Sekol tracked Stanley down before he could reach the first down marker to force a Susquehanna punt.
Cowpertwait took the snap on fourth down in punt formation, but a sea of blue jerseys enveloped the Sabers punter with Sekol blocking the punt just short of the endzone. The ball wound up out of bounds at the three were Old Forge would take over.
“The punt block was on,” said Sekol. “Shane (Schuback) and I are supposed to split the blockers to allow Lou to get in. But we all got in, and I was able to get there. I just stretched out and got it.”
The play resulted in Carey’s third touchdown of the night, the game-winner from three-yards on first down. Mancuso’s extra-point gave the Blue Devils a 22-15 lead with 10:23 left in the game.
“I am so excited and extremely proud of this team and how we played,” said Carey. “I can’t describe it. We didn’t want to feel that same feeling (from last year) again.”
Susquehanna answered by driving to the Old Forge 31. But three offsides penalties on the Sabers during the next four plays resulted in a third-and-27 situation from the Old Forge 49.
Stanley dropped back quickly and then took off up the middle on a draw, but Trotta was there waiting for the senior quarterback and tackled him for a one-yard loss to force a punt.
Old Forge couldn’t manage to run the clock out and were forced to punt after just three downs on each of its next two possessions. Argust’s first punt was partially blocked, and the Sabers took over at the Blue Devils 37.
But again it was Trotta, Sekol and the Old Forge defense holding Susquehanna in check.
Trotta tackled Price after two yards on third-and-4 from the 31, and Sekol, Ciuccio and Ryan Cadwalder stopped Price for no gain on fourth-and-2 from the 29.
Then on the Sabers final possession, Trotta put an exclamation point on the win by tackling Stanley for a three-yard loss on fourth-and-7 with 11 seconds remaining in the game.
“It’s a great feeling to have these kids be a part of your life,” said Old Forge Head Coach Mike Schuback. “I want my daughter to be able to marry a kid like Trotta or Carey. They are the type of guys that are committed to their friends, committed to their education. They are tireless workers.
“I am proud of all of the seniors that stayed. It shows the character of them and the hard work they were willing to put in to succeed. They know it doesn’t have to be their name called everyday. There are a lot of unseen seniors as well. Ciuccio had a solid year for us. Cadwalder had a solid year for us. Stuart again had a solid year. But no one talks about them because they are on defense. Offense gets the publicity, and defense is a dirty job.
“This team matured this year. Some may think they overachieved, but really they matured because this has been a special group in everything they do. Our freshmen program is successful and that group of sophomores gave us a boost this year. Our junior class is athletic, and the leadership and stability that our senior class provided made this happen. It was the perfect mix. The fact we won the division is great. It’s a great feeling to be where we are right now.”
Carey’s 170-yard night on 11-of-23 passing put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. The first-year quarterback is at 1,026 for the season. Argust hauled in five of those completions for 78 yards, and Vieira added two catches for 28 yards.
Defensively, Shane Schuback added six tackles, including two for losses, and Ciuccio made all four of his stops in the second half.