Kyle Carney exploded for five touchdowns in leading Honesdale over Lakeland
For a second straight week, Honesdale's defense rose to the occasion at a crucial moment in the game.
This time around, that moment came very early as Lakeland was knocking at the door in the first quarter of Friday night's Homecoming battle.
The Chiefs forced a turnover on Honesdale's first possession, then took the ball and marched all the way to the one yardline. Once there, though, defensive coordinator Bob Markwith's unit stiffened and refused to surrender a score.
"Our defense came up big when we needed it the most," Head Coach Jim Ludwig told TWI Sports. "Those kids really stepped up and made some big plays and we wouldn't have won tonight without them."
The Hornets took over in the shadow of their own goal posts and promptly embarked on an epic 99 yard drive. Quarterback Kevin Miller capped the march by hitting tight end Cole McConnell for a 28-yard touchdown pass.
"I was really looking for a way to make up for that first stupid mistake," said Miller, whose fumble gave Lakeland its first possession.
"And, I have to give my old buddy Jon Gillow some credit for the first touchdown. He sent me game clips from last year and told me that backside post was open. So, I looked for it, Cole was open and made a nice catch."
Thanks to the momentum that play generated, Honesdale rocketed out to a 21-7 lead. However, Lakeland roared back to tie the score early in the third before the Hornets pulled away once and for all.
Thanks in large part to another monster night by tailback Kyle Carney, the Red & Black celebrated Homecoming with an impressive 47-21 victory.
"This is a huge win for us," Coach Ludwig said.
"Lakeland is a good football team and for us to handle them the way we did tonight feels really good. Hopefully, this carries over for the next couple of weeks and we finish strong."
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, Honesdale's record now sits at 3-5. The Hornets are still mathematically alive for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but would have to win out to be considered.
Next up is a Week Nine home game with Western Wayne. The Red & Black then close out the 2013 Lackawanna Football Conference campaign on the road at Mid Valley.
While Miller and McConnell set the tone for this Homecoming triumph, it was Carney who gave the Chiefs' defense fits.
Kyle shredded Lakeland's front seven from opening kick-off to final whistle. The senior tailback piled up 168 yards rushing, snagged three passes for 35 more and visited the endzone an eye-popping five times.
"Kyle was awesome tonight," Coach Ludwig said. "He had a huge game. When we can get Kyle to the edge, get him in space, he's really tough to tackle."
Carney tallied his first TD midway through the second quarter, scampering in from 15-yards out. TJ Knash's second PAT of the night gave Honesdale a 14-7 lead.
To the delight of a big Homecoming crowd, Carney upped that advantage to 21-7 by breaking loose for another 15-yard score.
To their credit, though, the Chiefs refused to fold. Coach Jeff Wasilchak's squad rallied for a late TD just before intermission.
Lakeland picked right up where it left off after the break as quarterback Chet Anuszewski sneaked in from a yard out. Josh Natale's conversion knotted the score at 21-21, but it would be the Chiefs' last hurrah.
While Carney's electrifying performance at tailback would be the highlight of this game, the stellar play of Honesdale's defensive unit cannot be overlooked.
Josh Burkavage has emerged as the spiritual leader of this group, which has shown steady improvement in the second half of the season.
"You want a motivational leader at the linebacker position and Josh gives us that," Coach Ludwig said. "Josh has a lot of energy and emotion. He gets after the ball and makes a ton of tackles, especially the past couple of weeks."
Woodrow Martin and Alex Evanitsky also contributed big plays in the second half of Friday night's win.
Martin made a diving interception of an Anuszewski pass that was tipped by Tyler Canfield. Evanitsky hammered the final nail in the Chiefs' coffin by picking off a pass and returning it 40 yards for a touchdown.
In the interim, Carney just went about the business of amassing huge offensive numbers. Kyle's 10-yard touchdown run with 1:22 left in the third quarter put Honesdale ahead to stay, 28-21.
Carney was far from finished, however. He closed out his memorable night with nearly identical TD runs late in the game. The first came from 30 yards on a quick pitch to the right, while the second covered 23 yards on the same exact play call.
"You have to give our offensive line a lot of credit," Miller said. "They blocked great tonight. They gave me time to throw and they opened up big holes that Kyle could run through."
Miller's passing complemented Carney's running perfectly. Kevin completed 11-of-15 attempts, good for 165 yards and one touchdown. He was not intercepted.
McConnell paced the Red & Black receiving corps with three catches for 41 yards. Carney chipped in with two receptions, while Josh LoBasso and Canfield added two apiece.
Score by Quarters...
HON (3-5) 7 14 7 19 - 47
LAK (4-4) 0 14 7 0 - 21