LEHMAN TWP. — When the hole was there, Lake-Lehman fullback Dustin Jones would slam through it and punish Lakeland defenders trying to stop him. When there was no hole, he punished them anyway.
Jones did this 38 times for 311 yards and four touchdowns as the Black Knights throttled Lakeland 37-21 Friday night to win the District 2 Class 2A football championship.
Lehman (11-1) will play District 11 champion Catasauqua (11-1) in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday at Wyoming Valley West’s Spartan Stadium. Lakeland, which also lost in last year’s D2-2A title game, finished its year at 7-5.
“It’s awesome because we had a lot of adversity this year with injuries,” said Lehman senior linebacker Brady Butler, who was part of a strong defensive effort that was overshadowed by Jones’ running. “We had kids stepping up to the plate and we’re pulling out every game. After (losing) to Old Forge, we knew we had the potential to go far.”
Lehman’s 11th consecutive victory gave the program its first district championship since 1997.
“It’s a lot of pressure off my shoulders, let’s say that much,” said Lehman coach Jerry Gilsky, whose team entered the year as the preseason favorite to win the championship. “We were a little worried about Lakeland because it’s a well-coached program and you know coach (Jeff Wasilchak) has a nice bag of tricks with defensive schemes.”
Lehman struck to the same tricks it has used all season — a dominant running game. It eventually wore down Lakeland as Jones scored two fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns and Butler added another as the Black Knights pulled away.
Jones’ 26-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter was the only run where he didn’t have to bang off a Lakeland defender. He rarely went down on the first hit on the 37 others. And on many of those runs, he was able to get to the second level untouched thanks to the blocking of the interior linemen — center Connor McGovern, guards Phil Hettes and Cory Hoyt — and tackles Pete Borum and Luke Hummell.
“There’s no looking at the running backs getting all this yardage without the linemen,” said the 250-pound Jones, who recorded his second 300-yard game of the season. “It starts with the line. They don’t get enough credit and it’s a shame, but you got to respect them for what they do.”
Jones had 188 of his yards in the second half. And while Lakeland was able to keep 1,000-yard wingback Joey Vigil from attacking the perimeter with much effectiveness, the Chiefs had no answer for Jones between the tackles.
“He just wears you out,” Wasilchak said. “We hit him a little bit in the first half, but then those 4-yard runs started turning into 8-yard runs.”
Despite a strong defensive effort, Lehman found itself ahead just 10-6 at halftime. The Black Knights took a 16-6 lead at 1:52 of the third quarter on a 2-yard run by Jones.
Meanwhile, Lakeland couldn’t find any offensive consistency. The Chiefs didn’t get their initial first down of the second half until the 6:59 mark of the fourth quarter. Running back Chris Roche, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, finished with 60 yards on 20 carries. One second-half touchdown came on a kickoff return and the other with 0.3 seconds left in the game on a 4-yard option pass.
“Awesome shutting them down,” Gilsky said. “Pass defense, we did an all right job. They made some phenomenal catches. We’re getting to the quarterback more. The kids are really focused in practices and games week by week.”
District 2 Class 2A Championship
Lake-Lehman 37, Lakeland 21
LL — Mike Symeon 24 FG, 5:18
LL — Dustin Jones 5 run (Symeon kick), 6:49
LAK — Chris Roche 5 run (kick blocked), 1:53
LL — Jones 2 run (kick blocked), 1:52
LL — Jones 26 run (Symeon kick), 10:32
LAK — Josh Natale 73 kick return (Natale kick), 10:18
LL — Jones 9 run (Symeon kick), 7:55
LL — Brady Butler 1 run (Symeon kick), 2:01
LAK — Gavin O’Donnell 4 pass from Tim Hackenburg (Chet Anuszewski run), 0:00.3
RUSHING — Lakeland, Roche 20-60, Anuszewski 4-13, Christian Selvenis 3-7. Hackenberg 2-2. Lehman, Jones 38-311, Joey Vigil 10-53, Butler 9-59, Antonio Ferarri 2-(minus-5), team 1-(minus-1).
PASSING — Lakeland, Anuszewski 7-18-0-56, Hackenberg 1-1-0-4. Lehman, Ferarri 0-2-1-0.
RECEIVING —Lakeland, O’Donnell 1-4, Jard Bomba 3-18, Jeff Burton 2-15, Roche 1-11, Hackenberg 1-12.
INTERCEPTIONS — Lakeland, Garth Estadt 1-0.
MISSED FGs — none.