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Williamsport corrals Hazleton Area’s offense

WILLIAMSPORT – Two years ago, Hazleton Area made a run at 66 points when it played at Millionaire Stadium. That is the way the annual series went for most of the last eight seasons as the Cougars routinely pounded Williamsport and established themselves as District 2 Class 4A title contenders.

Friday night, Williamsport held Hazleton Area to 66 yards.

The past is dead to these Millionaires and so is an eight-game losing streak against Hazleton Area.

Williamsport shut down every aspect of the Cougars offense, allowed no offensive touchdowns and used smash-mouth running to record a methodical and impressive 21-7 Wyoming Valley Conference Division 4A win on homecoming night at Millionaire Stadium.

So go ahead and spread the word; Williamsport is back. The Millionaires (4-1) showed why they now are both a district title and league championship title contender while winning their fourth straight game, their longest winning streak since 2002.

“We’re working real hard. We’re trying to prove we can do it,” said Williamsport safety Drae Lewis, who played great in the secondary and also ran for a 72-yard second-quarter touchdown. “We feel like if we can continue to work hard and play like we’re playing now we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”

Williamsport built a 14-0 first-quarter lead and only a 72-yard Jared Buchman first-quarter kickoff return prevented it from recording its second straight shutout. The starting defense has not allowed a point since Week 2, but Friday was its masterpiece.

The Millionaires surrendered just 10 second-half yards and forced three turnovers. Hazleton Area managed just 36 rushing yards on 32 carries and players like Thomas Burk, Matthew Lewis and Dominique Hill constantly pressured quarterback Chad Hoffman, sacking him three times and never allowing him to feel comfortable in the pocket.

Williamsport installed a nickel defense to contain highly-touted receiver Chad Nicholas and held him without a catch as Cyrek Jackson clinched the win with an interception late in the fourth quarter.

Hazleton Area running back A.J. Petrone had recorded four straight 100-yard games, but the Millionaires held him to just 31 yards on 15 carries. Whatever Hazleton Area tried, Williamsport had an answer as eight years of frustration faded away into the foggy night air.

“The assistant coaches are doing a great job and are coming to the meetings on Sunday nights with a lot of ideas on how to stop their best players and they are doing a great job of teaching their positions,” Williamsport coach Tom Gravish said. “The kids are listening, they are really coachable and they are working hard.

“We had a really hard week of practice, but the kids aren’t flinching and just keep cranking it up.”

Still, Williamsport’s new emotion was not going to win Friday’s game. The players knew it would come down to execution and old-school toughness on a night when a steady, soaking rain made for sloppy conditions.

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