CLINTON TWP. — Lackawanna Trail had a promising drive derailed by a sack and penalty during its first possession.
Nate Rolka made sure the Lions’ next drive had a better outcome.
Dunmore’s Rayshaun Dawkins made an early statement with a 70-yard touchdown run to help the Bucks take a 7-0 lead with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
Then, Rolka responded and led Lackawanna Trail to a 21-15 win over Dunmore in a Lackawanna League Division 3-4 crossover game Sept. 14 at Lions Pride Stadium.
The senior signal caller burst through a hole in the Bucks’ defense and lowered his head to break a tackle during a 66-yard touchdown run. Ray Melnikoff tacked on the extra point to tie the game with 3:08 remaining in the first quarter.
“There was an opening and I just had one guy to beat, but the line set the whole thing up,” Rolka said. “We don’t like to give up explosive plays, especially early in the game, but we knew we were capable of moving the ball. We didn’t worry too much and just came out and executed.”
Rolka also made an impact on defense, sacking Bucks quarterback Steven Borgia for a 6-yard loss on the ensuing possession.
The Lions ground out a 16-play, 73-yard drive, capped by an 1-yard touchdown run from Rolka, to go ahead 14-7 with 2:42 left in the first half after Rolka converted the extra point.
Dunmore (2-2) moved the ball down to the Lions’ 3-yard line during the opening possession of the second half, but Borgia’s pass attempt fell incomplete on fourth down to end the Bucks’ scoring threat.
“Dunmore has been the best small-school (program) in District 2 for a long time,” Rolka said. “We knew that we would have to play really disciplined football if wanted to hang with them.”
Dawkins scored his second touchdown of the game, on a 3-yard run, with 29 seconds left in the third quarter, but the extra point attempt sailed wide and Trail remained ahead by one point, 14-13.
Melnikoff made two big plays during Trail’s next scoring drive. He rumbled 37 yards after catching a pass from Rolka on the first play of the possession and later broke free for a 39-yard touchdown run.
“The offensive line, especially Colin Mulhern, kicked it out so well and then there was green grass,” Melnikoff said. “I only had to break one tackle. There was great blocking all night.”
Melnikoff’s extra point attempt bounced off the cross bar and through to give Trail a 21-13 lead with 9:46 left in the fourth quarter.
Dunmore moved the ball to the Lions’ 1-yard line after a 10-yard scamper by Borgia on 4th-and- 7, but Trail’s Colin Mulhern forced and recovered a fumble on the next play to end the Bucks’ scoring threat with 2:38 left in the fourth.
“We just wanted to be as aggressive as we could,” Mulhern said. “Get low as push them back. The guard tried to come down on me and I just pushed him back and got my hand into the quarterback. I knocked the ball out and dove right on it.”
Dunmore pulled two points closer, with 2:21 left in the game, when Lackawanna Trail (4-0) was whistled for a holding penalty in its own end zone.
The Bucks had one last chance to take the lead in the final minute but Lions senior defensive back Jordan Edwards broke up Borgia’s desperation heave, on a 4th-and-14 play from the Trail 43, to seal the win.
“I have to give a lot of credit to our coaches for putting us in the right coverages,” Edwards said. “Then, it just comes down to us working hard and we gave it 110 percent tonight.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.