Neshannock has made a name for itself this season in Class A and the WPIAL by having a penchant for turning heads; catching teams off-guard that expect little from a program with little recent success to boast.
Perennial Class A contender Rochester made sure it would not fall victim to one of the Lancers' surprises, as the host Rams got 201 rushing and 266 all-purpose yards from running back Dante Marsick to come away with a 28-21 victory Friday.
"We played Rochester football -- that's what we played in the second half," Rochester coach Gene Matsook said. "People doubted us -- they talked about Neshannock the whole time about how good they are, and they are very good.
"But my kids in the second half, we knocked them off the football and we just played Rochester football like we know how to play. I'm proud of my kids tonight."
A win for Rochester seemed far from certain in the first half, as it trailed for the entire time, heading to the locker rooms with a 14-13 deficit.
Things changed quickly, though, for the Rams in the second half on both sides of the ball. A defense that seemed ill-equipped to handle Neshannock's quick passing attack was able to severely clamp down on the Lancers offense, limiting them to just a single touchdown in the second half.
But as it was for much of the game, Marsick was ultimately the difference between an undefeated start and second place in the Big Seven Conference standings.
It began in the second quarter as the senior got Rochester on the board with a 3-yard run and, with under two minutes before halftime, added a 69-yard scamper down the sideline on a pitch from quarterback Ben Richko to bring the Rams within a point.
In the second half, he added 82 yards on 18 carries and his 2-yard touchdown run with 1:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"He's doing a great job for us," he said. "Dante's been carrying us. But it's a tribute to our offensive line, and Dante will be the first guy to tell you our offensive line doesn't get the recognition it should."
Rochester finished with 344 yards of total offense, with 257 of those yards coming from the team's running backs, a group also featuring senior Danny Vreen and his 40 yards on nine carries.
Neshannock quarterback Ernie Burkes finished with 180 passing yards and two touchdowns, and wide receiver Alex Welker had 101 yards of total offense and a touchdown.
"The media gets to hype it up, but the kids knew what was at stake," Matsook said. "We've been in the big games, we know what the big games are all about, our kids understand what they have to do."
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @craig_a_meyer.