CANTON — It was heartbreak for Canton again on a cold Friday night.
For the second year in a row they fell to Muncy at home in the District IV, Class A title game, losing 23-19 this year.
This one may have hurt a little more as they were leading into the fourth quarter but couldn’t stop get the one stop they needed as the Indians took the lead 23-19 with 5:05 left.
“We needed to make a play there,” Canton coach Tyler Sechrist said. “Get a stop there and we just didn’t get it done.”
Then, with Canton in the red zone, Muncy did the get stop they needed with 2:51 left to play and ran out the clock from there.
It didn’t help Canton that they spotted Muncy 10 first quarter points, but showed their toughness by coming all the back to take a 19-16 lead late in the third quarter.
“I love these kids,” Sechrist said about his players, particularly his seniors. “I’ve been with them since junior high, I moved up with them (to varsity). They will fight and battle to the end. I couldn’t be prouder of the seniors, they played their hearts out.”
Uriah Baillie had nearly 200 yards of total offense between the air and the ground. He was 7-for-16 for 98 yards passing, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
On the ground he ran for 93 yards and a score on 13 touches.
Fellow senior Nick May had the two touchdown receptions, his only catches of the day, for 38 yards, including a fourth down score to take the lead.
Ben Knapp added four catches for 54 yards.
Also on the ground Carson Stiner had 33 yards on eight carries.
Turnovers were a factor as the cold made handling the ball extremely tough. Canton had four turnovers — two lost fumbles and two interceptions — while Muncy lost possession twice.
Ethan Gush was a workhorse for the Indians, running the ball 28 times for 117 yards and two touchdowns while freshman quarterback Branson Eyer was their spark.
He was 9-for-14 for 80 yards and a pick while also running for a touchdown.
Eyer’s fourth down catch for 14 yards and new a set of downs on a half back pass play in the fourth quarter was the play of the game.
It kept their go ahead drive alive and gave the Indians control of the game.
Muncy came throwing out throwing punches us a flea flicker on the first play of the game for a 32-yard gain down to the Warrior 28-yard line.
Gush followed with an 8-yard while two plays later Eyer hit Gush for an 11-yard gain to set up first and goal at the 7-yard line.
Canton’s defense stiffened, including a big stop from Garrett Storch on second and goal from the 4-yard line, but on third and goal from the three the offensive line surged forward as Eyer took it himself and fell into the endzone.
The Isaac Boring point after made it 7-0 just 3:05 into the game.
Canton’s ensuing drive was one to forget. They nearly lost the ball on a fumble on the first play followed up by a fumble on the second play.
The live ball was picked up by Nathan Palmatier and he returned it to the Canton 21-yard line.
On their ensuing drive it looked like the Warriors may had stopped them, thanks to a Storch tackle for loss on first down.
But on third-and-6 Eyer hit Christian Good for an 8-yard gain and a fresh set of downs to the Warrior 9-yard line.
They looked to make it 14-0 on second down with a fade to the corner of the endzone but Baillie knocked it away at the last second.
Canton’s defense held and Muncy had to settle for a 21-yard field from Boring, giving the Indians a 10-0 lead with 5:18 left in the opening quarter.
Canton’s ensuing drive went 4-and-out but a Muncy turnover on their next drive put the Warriors back in business at their 48-yard line.
On second down Baillie aired it out for Knapp, who went up and made the catch over the Muncy defender.
He fell at the 7-yard line, setting up first and goal.
However, on the next play Canton fumbled the ball away again, giving Muncy the ball at the 1-yard line.
All was not lost, though, as the Indians struggled to do much and were forced to punt.
The snap on the punt was bad and the punter did what he could to get it off from the back of his own endzone.
It was a rolling punt that was picked up by Stiner at the 10-yard line. He returned it to the 7-yard line, setting up first and goal.
On the first play from scrimmage Baillie ran to the 1-yard line but on the next play Canton was called for holding, pushing them back to the 11-yard line.
It didn’t matter as on the next play Baillie scrambled to his left and found May in the back of the endzone for the 11-yard score.
The point after was no good but Canton was on the scoreboard, cutting it to 10-6 with 11:02 left in the first half.
Muncy would respond on their ensuing drive.
On the second play from scrimmage Gush ran for 11-yards down up to near midfield and a new a set of downs.
Then on third-and-11 Eyer scrambled for 16 yards to the Canton 45 and a fresh set of downs.
On the next play Gush found room on down the left sideline, running for 39 yards and breaking two tackles on the way, to set up first and goal at the 6-yard line.
Two plays later Gush ran it in from 5-yards out. The point after was no good but the Indians pushed it back to 10-points, 16-6, with 7:13 left in the second quarter.
Finding themselves back in the hole they got the big play they needed on their first play from scrimmage.
Baillie went left, picked up a big block from Storch and hit the seam for a 60-yard touchdown run. Knapp hit the point after, cutting it to 16-13, which was the score at the half.
Canton got the ball to start the second half but were forced to punt. May’s boot did back Muncy up to their 7-yard line.
That proved crucial as the Indians went 3-and-out, giving Canton the ball back in Muncy territory, at the 39-yard line.
On the second play from scrimmage an Owen Wesneski 7-yard run got them to the Muncy 25 with a fresh set of downs.
However, a false start set them back to second and 14, which quickly became fourth and 12.
That’s when Baillie made another big play, finding May behind the defense for a 27-yard touchdown strike.
The point after was no good but Canton now led for the first time with 5:17 left in the third quarter.
The two teams would trade punts as Muncy got the ball back with 2:09 left in the third.
That’s when they went on a, 80-yard, 17-play scoring drive that killed 9:04 off the second half clock.
They converted four third downs and a fourth down along the way.
Their first third down conversation came at their own 26-yard line when Eyer found Good for a 10-yard passing play.
Three plays later on third-and-5 Eyer scrambled five yards to hit the first down marker on the dot.
Eyer followed that up with a 22-yard pass to Bailey Hadzinikolov, setting them up at the Canton 32-yard line with a fresh set of downs.
The Warriors appeared to get a break on second down as Eyer lost the ball when he went to pass. He was able to recover the fumble but was brought down by Derek Atherton-Ely and May for a 13-yard loss.
On third down Eyer made up 11 of the yards on a run, cutting it to fourth and 12.
That’s when Muncy went back to their bag of tricks, pulling out a half back pass as Ross Eyer found his brother down field.
Branson Eyer was double covered but came down with the catch and the first down on a 14-yard gain to the Warrior 21-yard line.
Canton’s defense stayed tough, though, forcing them into another third down, this time third-and-4.
But Branson Eyer found Hadzinikolov on a dump pass in the flat for 7-yards and a first and goal at the Canton 9-yard line.
Three runs later and Gush was in the endzone from 2-yards out for his second touchdown of the night.
Boring hit the extra point to make it a 4-point Muncy advantage.
On the ensuing kick-off, though, Canton got a big jolt when up-back Riley Parker fielded the squib kick, found a seam and ran it back to the Muncy 35-yard line.
Two plays later Baillie had a 10-yard run down to the 24 and a fresh set of downs.
Muncy then stuffed back to back runs by Stiner to force a third-and-6 from the 20-yard line.
Baillie then went for it all as he eyed his big receiver Knapp. Though he was triple covered Knapp went up for the catch at the goal line only to have it dribble out as he tried to come down with it.
On fourth down the Indians were prepared for the pass and Baillie’s desperation throw fell incomplete.
The Indians got the ball back with 2:51 left in the game and ran it out from there.
This is Muncy’s third district title in four years — all of them coming on the road and coming against teams they had lost to in the regular season.
In 2016 Sayre beat them for the NTL Small School title only to fall to the Indians at home in the district title game. Last year in 2018 Canton shut out Muncy in the regular season at home but couldn’t generate enough offense in the ‘mud bowl’, falling to the Indians 9-7.
Now in 2019 the Warriors beat the Indians during the regular season on the road but came up short at home.
Canton will say good bye to senior stalwarts Baillie, Storch, May and lineman Keegan Nelson but get several skill players back plus last year’s 2-way standout Timmy Ward.
So there’s a good chance they will be fighting for a district title next November.
“I’d love to,” Sechrist said about breaking through in 2020 — exactly 30 years from Canton’s last district title.
“We’ll have to see.”