Nov. 13—DANVILLE — Mike Brennan understands what it takes to win a state title and the finality of falling short. It is a message he has been pounding into his unbeaten Danville football team all season, especially over the last two weeks.
It is a message his squad certainly got on Saturday in its first playoff game. The Ironmen dominated Athens in a 49-0 shutout, setting up a rematch with the one team that has taken the Ironmen to the wall this season. Danville, now 11-0, will host Loyalsock in next week's final. The Ironmen beat Loyalsock 17-14 in September.
Senior receiver Carson Persing caught six passes for 163 yards and three scores, becoming just the fifth player in Pennsylvania prep history with more than 4,000 career receiving yards. Zach Gordon threw for 288 yards and three scores and Ty-Brown Stauffer added 126 yards and three more TDs.
Oh, and Danville's defense had its eighth shutout in 11 games, forcing three Wildcat (7-5) turnovers.
"It's the same mentality, what we've preached all year, since June 6: One week at a time, one game at a time," all-state linebacker Mason Raup said.
As has been the case most of the season, the Ironmen took control early. Coming off a bye week, Danville steamrolled to a 14-0 lead less than three minutes into the game and a 21-0 lead after the first quarter. Over the last three games, Danville has outscored its opponents 98-0 in the first quarter.
"I'm proud of them because it's a lot of mental preparation, a lot of discipline a lot of focus and making plays for one another," Danville coach Mike Brennan said. "We got off to another quick start."
That they did. The Ironmen were on the board in 46 seconds when Persing hauled in the first of his three scoring passes, a 12-yarder from Gordon. After a three-and-out, Brown-Stauffer barrelled in from the 12 to make it 14-0 with 9:01 still to play in the first quarter. Gordon found Persing behind the defense for a 41-yard TD on the next series — for Persing's 20th TD catch of the year.
Persing switched the field with a 54-yard punt return after Athens picked up two first downs on its third drive before Brown-Stauffer sliced in from the 5 to make it 28-0 two plays into the second quarter.
"Carson was outstanding today and Zach was accurate again," Brennan said. "Throw Ty in there, and they all sort of feed off each other; no one cares who gets the credit."
Gordon threw for 254 yards in the first half, including a TD pass to backup QB Madden Patrick to make it 35-0 in the middle of the second quarter.
Brown-Stauffer and Persing scored second-half TDs to ice the 600th victory in program history.
"Super important for us to get off to another fast start," Gordon, who added an interception on defense, said. "If you get down early in a game against a good team, it's tough to come back. Playing at home, you get that momentum swing and it just keeps going."
The only thing in doubt over the final two quarters was whether Danville would get another shutout. The Ironmen forced two turnovers in the second half, including an interception by Patrick inside the red zone to secure the shutout.
Danville meets Loyalsock next week in their third consecutive District 4 Class 3A title game appearance.
District 4 Class 3A SEMIFINALS
DANVILLE 49, ATHENS 0
Bellefonte (7-5);0;0;0;0 — 0
Danville (11-0);21;14;7;7 — 49
D-Carson Persing 12 pass from Zach Gordon (Garrett Hoffman kick), 11:14
D-Ty Brown-Staufer, 12 run (Hoffman kick), 9:04.
D-Persing 41 pass from Gordon (Hoffman kick), 5:45
D-Brown-Stauffer, 3 run (Hoffman kick), 11:51
D-Madden Patrick 5 pass from Gordon (Hoffman kick), 8:41
D-Brown-Stauffer, 6 run (Hoffman kick)
D-Persing 15 pass from Patrick (Hoffman kick)
Rushing — Athens: Kolsen Keathley 2-11; Kaden Parrish 1-8; Mason Lister 6-(-2); Caleb Nichols 7-11; Danville: Brown-Stauffer, 20-126, 3 TDs; Gordon 3-1; Aaron Johnson 3-24; Hunter Gurski 1-(-5); Mason Raup, 1-8; team 1-(-1).
Passing — Athens: Lister 12-24-2, 115 yards; Luke Horton, 0-1-0. Danville: Gordon 14-19-1, 288 yards, 3 TDs; Patrick, 2-3-0, 36 yards, TD; Team, 0-1-0.
Receiving — Athens: Horton 8-86; Josh Martin 1-3; Xavier Watson 2-27; Jack Cheresnowsky 1-3; Matt Machmer 1-(-3); Nichols 1-(-1). Danville-Persing 6-163, 3 TDs; Raup 1-21; Cole Duffy, 2-12; Johnson 2-65; Cameron Kiersch 2-23; Patrick 3-40, TD.