HONESDALE — Few fans turned out on a cold, damp Friday night to watch Honesdale host Riverside in a Week Seven Lackawanna Football Conference battle.
And, while the Vikings rolled to a lopsided 49-21 decision, the Hornets showed flashes of brilliance which hint at better days to come.
"Riverside is a much better team than we originally thought," Coach Jim Ludwig told TWI Sports. "They were big, strong and fast. But, we did some nice things against them. We have some kids who are working really hard and getting better every week."
With this loss, Honesdale's overall record fell to 2-5 for the season. The Hornets are 0-2 in divisional action.
The Red & Black will be look to bounce back Friday evening against Lakeland. The Chiefs (4-3) are coming off a heartbreaking 22-17 loss to top-ranked Dunmore.
That Division Two contest is slated for a 7 p.m. opening kickoff at Chapman Lake.
Nick Dranchak is without question one of the most electrifying players in the entire LFC.
Riverside's talented senior signal caller can hurt a defense with his arm, his legs and with his brain. On Friday night, Dranchak dazzled the small crowd with an electrifying display.
Before he even got onto the field, though, Dranchak's teammates staked him to a quick 7-0 lead.
Jim Tucker opened the game with an epic return. The senior wideout fielded TJ Knash's kick on the left hash at his own 10. From there, Tucker raced the width of the field, reached his own sideline and rocketed the paydirt.
This stunning 90-yard touchdown return gave Riverside a 7-0 lead with only 17 seconds gone in the game.
"That was definitely a little bit demoralizing," Coach Ludwig said. "Our strategy there was to try and pin them deep and make them throw into the wind. The gameplan was good, but we just didn't execute and their kid made a big play that really hurt us."
Honesdale's offense sputtered on its first possession and Timmy Russell was forced to punt the ball away. The Vikings took control in their own territory, but quickly mounted an impressive drive.
Dranchak capped the march by hitting scatback Jaron Vishnesky with a 30-yard scoring strike. The Vikes' veteran quarterback simply carved up a young Hornet secondary on this night. Dranchak completed 9-of-13 passes for 231 yards and five TDs.
"You have to give him credit," said Coach Ludwig. "He's one of the best quarterbacks we'll face this season. His arm strength is very impressive and he's pretty athletic, too."
By the time the first half ended, Dranchak had unleashed up three more scoring strikes and staked his squad to an insurmountable 42-7 lead.
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Honesdale managed to get on the board in spectacular fashion before intermission.
Quarterback Kevin Miller executed a textbook option play, rolling around Riverside's left end and carrying the ball until the last possible second. Miller pitched out just as a pair of Viking defenders converged and Alex Evanitsky did the rest.
The lightning-quick sophomore wingback snared the ball and jetted downfield. Evanitsky made two would-be tacklers miss as he sprinted 48 yards to the endzone.
"We really like what we're seeing from Alex," Coach Ludwig said. "He still needs to get in the weight room and get stronger, but he's definitely a playmaker. When Alex gets into the open field, he can do some real damage."
Kyle Carney also got into the scoring act against Riverside. Early in the third quarter, Honesdale's junior scatback hauled in 57-yard TD toss from Miller. Carney would finish his evening with four receptions good for 95 yards.
The Hornets' final score came with just 32 seconds remaining in regulation.
Back-up quarterback Josh LoBasso dropped back to pass and found Tyler Canfield open in the Riverside secondary. Canfield pulled the ball down for a 15-yard touchdown.
Timmy Russell once again turned in a solid all-round effort.
The versatile junior made several key tackles on defense, punted well and brought the crowd to its feet by racing for a first down after a botched long snap on special teams.
Sadly for Maple City grid fans, Russell suffered an ankle injury midway through the first half and was lost for the rest of the game.
"Timmy Russell is one of those players we can't afford not to have on the field," said Coach Ludwig said. "He makes big plays for us on offense, defense and special teams. Hopefully, we'll have him back and healthy by Friday night."
As The Wayne Independent went to press on Monday, his status for Friday night's road game at Lakeland was unclear.
Score by Quarters...
HON (2-5) 7 0 0 14 - 21
RIV (5-2) 21 21 7 0 - 49