GAR quarterback Quinn Buckner is tackled by Meyers linebacker David Mahalak during a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2A game Friday at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium.Times Leader Staff Photo/Don Carey
WILKES-BARRE — The slightest bit of hesitation, panic or fear would have certainly doomed the play.
Meyers quarterback Jared Mason showed none of the above when he released a pass as blitzing GAR linebacker Joe McDonald smashed him to the field Friday night.
On the other end, tight end Jude Steininger cradled the ball in the middle of the end zone with 19 seconds to play – his first catch in seven weeks – as Meyers upset previously unbeaten GAR 34-33 in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2A game.
Meyers (5-5) defeated GAR (9-1) for the sixth consecutive time and clinched a District 2 Class 2A playoff berth. The Mohawks had lost four consecutive games entering the game with their city rival. GAR fell to the second seed in the 2A tournament based on unofficial state points totals and failed in its attempt to finish the regular season undefeated for the first time since 1978.
“Those four losses in a row, they went out with the trash,” Mason said.
This game looked headed for the wastebasket early as Meyers turned over the ball on its first three possessions. It then turned into an offensive showcase as the lead changed hands for a fifth time when GAR quarterback Quinn Buckner scored on a 9-yard run for a 33-28 lead with 5:48 left in the fourth quarter.
The Mohawks then completed their third long scoring drive of the game, this one 14 plays, to pull out the victory.
On a first-and-goal play from the GAR 8, the Meyers line cleared a perfect passing lane for Mason, but McDonald raced through it. A split second before McDonald made contact Mason rifled the ball to Steininger.
“I saw the pressure,” Mason said, “but I knew the play was designed for him as soon as he got to the goal line. I owe it to the line. They did a great job.”
Steininger, who had drawn a pass interference penalty a play earlier on a fourth-and-goal from the 16, grabbed the chest-high pass uncontested. The Mohawks had been pushed back 15 yards on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on third down.
“I’m really glad the coach had faith in me,” said Steininger, whose catch was the first touchdown of his career. “I was open, nobody was there. Jared put the ball right there.”
Mason also had a 34-yard completion to tight end Nick Bilski on a fourth-and-7 play from the 50 during the drive. He eluded a defender before finding Bilski behind the secondary.
GAR’s last gasp ended in an incompletion and a 30-yard scramble by Buckner as time expired.
“They executed offensively and we didn’t stop them,” GAR coach Tony Khalife said. “All year the defense stood up for us. This week, we didn’t get it done defensively. Offensively, we played well enough to win the football game.”
GAR hit for big plays for touchdowns, including a 33-yard run by Buckner, a 69-yard punt return Lance Todd and a 40-yard reception by Breon Phillips. All came in the third quarter as the Grenadiers erased a 13-9 halftime deficit. Buckner finished with 140 rushing yards and 131 passing yards.
The Grenadiers, though, didn’t have the ball enough as Meyers pounded running back Tony Rossi 40 times for 186 yards. The Mohawks totaled 73 rushing plays, while GAR ran just 35 plays total.
“I’m tired, bruised,” Rossi said. “I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning hurting, but it’s worth it. We got that win.”
The victory allowed Meyers to make the postseason for a sixth consecutive year.
“Week six, week seven we had a lot of adversity with the injuries,” Meyers coach Mike Namey said. “We really lost our confidence as a program. We just didn’t know how to handle it.
“Thank God it took a city rivalry like this for us to dig down deep inside.”