MOUNT UNION - B.J. Loner and the rest of the Mount Union football team might have felt ripped off Friday when the junior returned an interception nearly 60 yards to notch his team's first touchdown against Moshannon Valley, but a flag for roughing the passer erased the play.
The call gave the ball back to the Black Knights and they took advantage, moving the it downfield to make it 7-0 with three minutes left in the first quarter.
But it was only fuel for the Trojans' fire, as in the next quarter they put up 25 points en rout to a 44-13 Inter-County Conference win.
Mount Union's first touchdown was set up in the first quarter, when a series of short runs and passes moved the ball to the 3-yard line. From there, it was just a matter of seconds before quarterback Trevon Walker took matters into his own hands with a rush into the end zone to make it 7-6. The extra point was missed - the Trojans missed four extra-point attempts - but the tone was set as Mount Union ran away with the rest of the quarter for the giant 25-7 lead.
"We intercepted that one and took it in for a touchdown then it was called back. I think from from that time on the guys knew that they could do it. This is the third time this year they've come back from being down a little bit, so they just seem to have that resiliency. They just keep coming back," Mount Union coach Dayton Shugarts said.
In the quarter, Loner put some kick into the Trojans' offense when a beautiful 51-yard rush plus at 37-yard passing play from Walker accounted for 13 of the team's second-quarter points.
On the following possession, the Black Knights were stranded on their own 30 when a sack from Devon Kylor, Seth Rogers and Mason Hockenberry forced Moshannon Valley to punt the ball away on fourth down, resulting in another scoring drive from the Trojans when a 20-yard passing play from Walker to Dylan Smith made it 25-7.
Mount Union's offense was clearly a major factor in the game as it clipped along to continually improve the lead, but the quieter force in the contest was the Trojan defense, which held Moshannon Valley to just over 90 yards in the first half and not many more than that in the second.
"I think our numbers and everything, we just wore them down. We've got some good kids. We've got some kids with speed, a quarterback who can throw the ball and defensively I think we played a pretty decent game," Shugarts said.
Moshannon Valley relied primarily on its passing game to gain yards - the Black Knights averaged less than two yards per carry - but Mount Union wasn't about to give anything up in the air easily.
Throughout the contest the defensive line forced incompletions a variety of ways, whether it was through tough coverage or blocked passes from the defensive line, and it kept Moshannon Valley from getting dangerous at any point in the game.
One factor that may have played into Moshannon Valley's troubles was the fact that starting quarterback Eric Sherkel was not in the game. However, backup Justin Kitko gave it his best, throwing for 187 total yards and even collecting a one-yard run to notch his team's first touchdown.
"(Kitko) threw the ball exceptionally well. That surprised me. I didn't think anybody would throw the ball that well against us, but he did a super job," Shugarts said.
In the second half, as the Black Knights still struggled to score, the Trojans kept on racking up the points, as rushes from Smith and Darrian Stapleton produced both third-quarter touchdowns, and 75-yard kickoff return by Klayton Heffner in the fourth completed Mount Union's scoring.
The Trojans, who have improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the ICC, will host Bellwood-Antis Sept. 27.
"This was a big one for us," Shugarts said. "I think this kind of sets the tone for the rest of the season, because we've got some real tough ones coming up with Bellwood and Northern Bedford and Tussey Mountain coming up."