By Todd Hummel
The Daily Item
The Danville football team gathered after Saturday’s PIAA quarterfinal matchup at HersheyPark Stadium and, as has become its post-game tradition, listened to the band play the school’s alma mater.
With tears streaming down the players’ faces and the somber tone of the band, it seemed like a funeral dirge for the end of the Ironmen’s season. But they had nothing to hang their heads about despite a 52-0 loss at the hands of undefeated District 3 champ Wyomissing.
The young Ironmen just ran into a senior-laden Spartans’ team at the top of its game.
“We had a lot of nerves,” Danville coach Jim Keiser said. “We talked about (nerves) this week, but we just couldn’t overcome them early. Then we ran into a great football team as well.”
Wyomissing had 393 yards rushing and Notre Dame-bound fullback Alex Anzalone ran for three touchdowns in the first quarter as the Spartans never let the underdog Ironmen to get into the game.
“We’ve been plagued by slow starts all year. We knew we couldn’t afford to feel our way through the first quarter,” Keiser said. “Until we got our feet underneath us, we were down three scores.”
“We talked all week about getting off to a quick start,” Wyomissing coach Bob Wolfrum said. “We read all week about how big of an underdog (Danville) was and how we should roll. You can’t let an underdog hang around. The longer they hang around the more they can think they can win.”
Wyomissing (14-0) advances to the PIAA semifinals to face Imhotep Charter on Saturday. Danville finished at 11-3.
Though the Ironmen were crushed by the loss, Danville took a lesson from the Spartans and the loss.
“Absolutely, this will be a lesson. We have eight starters back on each side of the ball and these kids got their feet wet at this level,” Keiser said. “We are going to have to work harder this summer to get better and give ourselves a chance to get back to this level.”
Junior fullback Sam Dressler (13 carries, 47 yards) echoed his coach’s thoughts.
“We have to work harder for next year,” Dressler said. “They were the better team (Saturday), but if we put the work in (in the offseason), we can go further next year.”
The Ironmen’s first appearance in the PIAA quarterfinals didn’t get off to a good start at all. Anzalone returned the opening kickoff 40 yards to the Danville 44 and it took the Spartans just three running plays to score. Anzalone scored from 10 yards out, but the extra point failed as Wyomissing took a 6-0 lead with 11:03 left in the first quarter. Halfback Mason Smith had the big run on the drive, a 33-yarder.
After a Danville three-and-out, the Spartans again needed just three plays to score. This time Anzalone scored from three yards out with 8:38 left in the first quarter. Again, the big play came on a 57-yard gain by Smith (7 carries, 144 yards) on a sweep.
“We always attack a 3-3 defense on the outside,” Wolfrum said. “With eight guys in the box, a Wing-T offense wants to get outside to spread the defense out a bit.”
The Ironmen again were held without first down on their drive. Anzalone returned the ensuing punt 30 yards after an illegal block erased a long return. Wyomissing drove 55 yards in six plays; Anzalone’s 1-yard TD run with 4:12 left in the quarter made it 21-0.
Danville put together its first sustained drive on its next possession, picking up two first downs before stalling just inside Wyomissing territory.
The Spartans made it 24-0 in the second quarter after an Ironmen fumble resulted in a 58-yard drive that ended in a Jonah Bowman 22-yard field goal with seven minutes left in the first half.
The Ironmen then put together their best drive of the game, driving from their own 12 to the Wyomissing 48, before stalling on downs.
Danville got the ball back on a Bret Berg interception, but Smith picked off a pass and returned it 22 yards for a TD to make the score 31-0 with 41 seconds left in the half.