Last year, Lackawanna Trail ended a 10-game losing streak to Old Forge.
This season, the Blue Devils made sure that winning streak didn’t get to two.
Old Forge senior Brendan Mozeleski’s will to win powered his team, once again.
The punishing runner and tackler was relentless, and left the Lions in his wake of destruction on both sides of the ball.
In the second half, he powered his way to 163 of his 209 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns to lead Old Forge to a 32-20 win over Lackawanna Trail on Friday night in a Lackawanna Football Conference Division III showdown at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“We came out in the second half with great motivation,” said Mozeleski, who also had four physical stops on defense in the second half. “I told the guys in the locker room, they were going to come out and give us their best shot. We responded very well. We had to go. We did and I am really proud of our effort.”
Old Forge (7-0 overall, 6-0 in Division III) fed off Mozeleski’s determination and capitalized on explosive plays from Tommy Souriyavong, a speedster at wide receiver, to remain undefeated.
The Blue Devils overcame their first deficit of the season and scored more than 30 points for the sixth time in their seven games.
They had 231 of their 377 yards in the second half and pulled away by scoring 18 unanswered points in the final 10 minutes of play.
“Experience is an important part of that,” said Mozeleski, who is a four-year starter. “We were down a lot last year in our 4-7 season. We got down and didn’t get back up. This year, we have a very strong will to win. When you think positive, good things happen. You can never get down, no matter the score.”
Lackawanna Trail (5-2, 4-2) controlled the clock for much of the first half and became the first opponent to score on the Old Forge defense in the first quarter before holding that lead to 11:50 remaining in the game.
Senior Owen Hivner had 132 yards rushing and a 57-yard touchdown that gave the Lions that final advantage on the first play of the fourth quarter.
But, Trail yielded a 48-yard touchdown to Mozeleski and a 75-yard touchdown to Souriyavong in a 4-minute span of the fourth quarter, as Old Forge seized the momentum, and the lead, 26-20.
“In high school football, what we preach is make the opponent drive the field, because a lot can happen, a penalty, a turnover, anything, but we couldn’t do that,” Trail head coach Steve Jervis said. “Defensively we gave up too many explosive plays.
“When you play a good football team that will come back to bite you.”
After Trail took a 7-0 lead on junior Nathan Rolka’s 12-yard run in the first quarter, Old Forge drew to within 7-6 at the break.
Souriyavong, who finished with 116 yards on two scoring receptions, took an out-pattern and turned it into a 41-yard touchdown with 3:54 remaining in the second.
Trail came out in the second half and put together a pair of long methodical drives.
The first finished when sophomore Jeffrey Resto scored on a 4-yard run to give the Lions a 14-6 lead at 8:55 of the third.
The second came after junior Jordan Edwards’s interception at the Lackawanna Trail 5 that halted a scoring threat. It covered 32 yards in nine plays.
But, Anthony Rios swatted a punt, making up for a roughing the punter call that kept the Lions’ drive in motion.
Five plays later, Mozeleski muscled through two tackles for a score and Rios caught a 2-point conversion pass to even it up at 14-14 with 36 seconds left in the third.
Hivner gave Lackawanna Trail its final spark with his 57-yard sprint through the heart of the Blue Devils defense.
From there, Mozeleski and the Blue Devils would not be denied.
They ran nine plays that covered 171 yards the rest of the way with three going for touchdowns to energize the homecoming crowd and preserve their undefeated record.
Trail’s defense came into the game allowing 222.5 total yards this season.
“I think we gave a great effort, but in quality, big games like this, it comes down to blocking and tackling,” Jervis said. “It’s not cliche. We didn’t tackle the way we are capable of against a really good football team.”
From 1999 to 2007, Lackawanna Trail (7) and Old Forge (1) won eight of the nine District 2 Class 1A championships.
Four times during that span, Lackawanna Trail ended the Blue Devils’ season with one coming in the 2002 district final.
Old Forge four of the last six District 2 Class 1A championships, including a win over Lackawanna Trail in the 2011 semifinals.
Last season, Lackawanna Trail beat Old Forge in the regular season, ending a 10-game losing streak in the series. The Lions went on to capture their first District 2 Class 1A championship since 2007.
Old Forge 32, Lackawanna Trail 20
LT 7 0 7 6 — 20
OF 0 6 8 12 — 32
LT - Rolka 12 run (Rolka kick), 7:34.
OF - Souriyavong 41 pass from Lucarelli (fumbled snap), 3:54.
LT - Resto 4 run (Rolka kick), 8:55.
OF - Mozeleski 3 run (Rios pass from Lucarelli), 0:36.
LT - Hivner 57 run (kick failed), 11:50.
OF - Mozeleski 48 run (pass failed), 10:14.
OF - Souriyavong 75 pass from Lucarelli (run failed), 6:02.
OF - Mozeleski 19 run (kick blocked), 0:39.
First Downs 19 12
Rushes-Yards 48-246 25-210
Comp-Att-Int 4-15-0 8-15-1
Passing Yards 55 167
Total Yards 301 377
Punts-Average 2-15 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-1
Penalties-Yards 5-34 6-55
Rushing: LT - O. Hivner 16-132, 1 TD; J. Resto 16-69, 1 TD; C. Moyle 5-26; N. Rolka 9-12, 1 TD; R. Melnikoff 1-8; J. Edwards 1-(-1). OF - B. Mozeleski 23-209, 3 TDs; D. Lucarelli 1-2; Team 1-(-1).
Passing: LT - N. Rolka 4-15-0, 55. OF - D. Lucarelli 8-15-1, 167, 2 TDs.
Receiving: LT - N. Coleman 2-39; O. Hivner 1-10; J. Edwards 1-6. OF - A. Rios 4-32; T. Souriyavong 2-116, 2 TDs; A. Anastasi 1-16; C. Cleary 1-3.