Four minutes changed everything for Northwest on Friday night.
During that span of the second quarter, Old Forge ran off 22 consecutive points to take control on the way to a 35-6 victory over the Rangers in a District 2 Class A semifinal game.
“You can’t give a good football team mistakes like that,” said Northwest coach Carl Majer, whose team finished the season at 8-3. “I think our team showed we can play. We just didn’t play four minutes, and that gave them three quick touchdowns going into then half.”
It also gave Old Forge (10-1) another crack at Dunmore (11-0), which defeated the Blue Devils 21-16 on Sept. 20. The game is a rematch of last year’s title game, won 7-6 by Dunmore. The stadium announcer said the game is 7 p.m. Friday.
“I just told the kids that it’s not often you get a second chance at something,” Old Forge coach Mike Schuback said. “They got a second chance at us last year, now we get a second chance.”
Midway through the second quarter Friday, that second opportunity wasn’t close to happening. Although Old Forge was moving the ball better than Northwest, neither team had scored.
Then came those four minutes, started when Old Forge’s Jake Manetti intercepted a pass and ran it back 20 yards to the Northwest 20-yard line. He scored four plays later on a 1-yard run for a 6-0 lead at 6:19 of the second quarter.
Northwest then had a shotgun snap sail over the head of quarterback Logan Womelsdorf and Old Forge’s Brandon Yescavage pounced on the ball at the Rangers 9. Yescavage blasted into the end zone two plays later.
Perhaps sensing they needed to do something to switch the momentum, the Rangers gambled on their next possession on a fourth-and-inches play at their 46. Old Forge linebacker Shane Schuback destroyed the play, stuffing Northwest running back Austin Mazonkey for a 2-yard loss.
The Blue Devils went on another two-play drive, with Manetti making a short toss to Schuback who turned it into a 38-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. Yescavage’s two-point run increased the lead to 22-0 at 2:19 of the second … exactly four minutes after Old Forge’s first score.
“We took some shots down the field the way they were playing defense (in the first half),” Mike Schuback said. “They were putting eight, nine guys in the box. You got to throw the ball.”
The second half was all Old Forge as the Blue Devils opened the third quarter with a 14-play, 87-yard scoring drive to take complete control.
Yescavage was a big part of the sudden turnaround. The senior carried 24 times for 142 yards, with his last carry giving him 1,819 to set a single season school record. His two touchdowns gave him 33 for the year, also a new record. The old records were 1,810 and 31 set last year by Brian Tomasetti, who is a freshman at Penn State.
“It means a lot to me because I’ve been striving to get it all year long,” Yescavage said. “From doubles all the way to now. My line works extremely hard to make the holes and I go right through them.”
Many of those same linemen were responsible for Old Forge allowing just 2.2 yards per carry on defense. The defense did even better Friday night as Mazonkey, who led the Wyoming Valley Conference with 1,616 rushing yard, finished with just 46 on 18 carry. Adding in the six times Womelsdorf was sacked, the defense surrendered just 4 yards on 28 rushes.
Northwest prevented itself from being Old Forge’s first shutout victim of the season with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Womelsdorf to Eric Gurzynski with 3:40 to play.