FOUNTAIN SPRINGS - North Schuylkill head coach Rick Geist rolled the dice last night. And he came out a winner.
The Spartans, who had a 33-game regular season win streak stopped last week by Schuylkill Haven having to enter the game with six starters injured.
Against the Colts, Geist started freshman quarterback Bob Grigas and moved his regular signal-caller Matt Smarkanic to fullback.
When the Spartans got in the red zone, however, fullback Matt Gownley, who didn't play at all last week, got the call and his two TDs led North Schuylkill to a 21-6 Anthracite League victory.
It was the first loss of the season for the Colts, who had a hard time running the ball against the Spartans defense, that had its starters back. As a matter of fact, the Colts finished with minus eight yards on the ground.
Despite the stagnant offense, Marian still found itself in the game for the most part.
"We just couldn't get traction in the ball game," said Marian head coach Stan Dakosty afterwards. "Obviously they have five of the six kids back that were injured which makes a difference.
"They controlled the tempo. We couldn't get anything moving.
"Our defense, all thing considered, did a real nice job keeping us in the ball game. We had a couple of shots in the first half. If we hit them, maybe we're back in it at 14-7."
It was Smarkanic who caught the Marian defense off guard on North Schuylkill's first offense series. On his third touch in four plays, the bruising junior broke loose off right tackle and raced 56 yards for a touchdown. Nick Sanayka booted the PAT and with 8:44 still left in the first quarter, the Spartans had a 7-0 lead.
With less than three minutes gone in the second quarter, North Schuylkill took advantage of a big break when Derrick Reese blocked a Marian punt and it gave the Spartans a first-and-goal at the Colts' six.
Enter Gownley. After three carries by Ethan Motsney down to the two, Gownley crossed the goal line and Sanayka kicked the extra point for a 14-0 lead with 7:22 left in the half.
Faced with a fourth-and-eight on the Spartans' 48 after the North Schuylkill score, the Colts got their first break when the Spartans fumbled the punt and John Julian fell on it on the NS 27. The Spartan defense stood tall, however, and took over on downs.
Marian had one more shot before the half moving down to the Spartans' 22, but quarterback Corey Quick was sacked for a 12 yard loss and then a snap over his head pushed them back to the North Schuylkill 43 and they had to run the clock out.
"Everyone played a little better this week," said Geist. "Our defense played much better. We came off the ball and were hitting people. We had a much better practice this week and a good walk through yesterday. You practice better, you play better.
"We have to do a little better on offense and play a whole game all around."
North Schuylkill took advantage of a Motsney interception after he ran it down to the Colts' three in the third quarter.
Gownley carried it in from the four before Sanayka's third PAT made it 21-0 with 6:43 left in the third quarter.
The Colts avoided a shutout when Eric Swankoski pulled in a halfback pass from Anthony Agosti for a 25-yard TD with 10:59 left in the game, but that was all they could muster.
"Give them credit, they played hard," said Dakosty. "We just have to regroup now. We have a lot of football left to play ahead of us and we have to get ourself ready to go."