Above, Pittston Area’s Jordan Houseman returns his second-half interception for a touchdown against Tunkhannock on Friday night in the Patriots first win since 2009. Below left, Justin Wilk tries to break a tackle during a big run against the Tigers. Wilk rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Below right, PA kicker Chris Musto kicks off the 2011 season.photos by CHARLOTTE BARTIZEK
If anyone around the Wyoming Valley Conference didn’t think Pittston Area – and junior Jordan Houseman – would be a factor this season, they need to think again.
Houseman scored three touchdowns without catching a pass to pace the Patriots to its first victory on the gridiron in almost 22 months as Pittston Area beat Tunkhannock, 45-6, in Head Coach Mike Barrett’s debut on Friday night at Tunkhannock Memorial Stadium. The victory snapped a 10-game losing streak for Pittston Area.
“You know, the kids were anxious to take the field tonight,” Barrett said as Gatorade dripped from his forehead after the Patriots doused their new boss. “They got the monkey off their back and I am so proud of them.”
It didn’t take the Patriots long to take the lead in their first game of the season, and they did it without taking snap on offense.
The defense came up big with a three-and-out after the Patriots deferred after winning the coin toss. The strategy proved to pay off as Houseman broke loose on his first punt return of the season, galloping 56 yards to endzone. Musto added the extra-point, and PA led 7-0 out of the gate.
The Patriots took their first offensive snap of the game with 5:49 remaining in the first quarter. But when they did, Pittston Area made it known they plan on making their bones on the ground.
Marc Romanczuk and Justin Wilk all contributed to the running game as the Patriots put together a scoring drive, keyed by a 36-yard run by Romanczuk. Wilk capped the drive by bulldozing his way through Tunkhannock’s line for a three-yard touchdown with 2:43 left in the first. Musto again hit the PAT and the Patriots led 14-0.
Romanczuk led the Patriots’ ground attack with 95 yards on just six carries in the game, while Wilk had 67 yards and two touchdowns.
Pittston Area threw the ball just four times on Friday night, but they made them count as Anthony Schwab hit Joe Starinsky for a 24-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. Musto made it 3-for-3 on extra-points, and the Patriots were in command at 21-0 with less than a minute showing on the first quarter clock.
Tunkhannock tightened the Pittston Area lead to 21-6 early in the second quarter, when Mike Parduski traveled 11 yards into the end zone. But the Patriots defensive line exploded through on the PAT and sophomore Eric Danaher blocked the PAT with 9:38 left in the first half.
The Patriots offensive train got right back on track after the Tigers disrupted the shutout.
Wilk scored his second touchdown of the game when he went seven yards into the end zone later in the second quarter to give PA a 28-6 advantage with 8:41 left in the second quarter.
Musto capped the Patriots first-half scoring by doing what he does best – kicking field goals. The senior nailed a 20-yard field goal, which had plenty of distance and was right down the middle to send Pittston Area to the locker room with a 31-6 lead.
“I wasn’t surprised at all, kicking is a huge part of the game and he was terrific for us tonight,” Barrett said of his kicker.
Houseman then took care of the second-half scoring for the Patriots. He scored both of the Patriots touchdowns in the second half, and like his first score, neither of his touchdowns were scored on offense.
Houseman came up with a big interception while the Tigers were backed up deep in their own territory. The 6’1 defensive back snagged the ball at the Tigers’ 13 and strolled into the end zone. Musto added the PAT and the Patriots led 38-6 with 6:01 left in the third quarter.
“Houseman is a player,” Barrett said. “He is such a threat on the field and he played very, very well tonight.”
His third and final touchdown of the night was yet another punt return, this time for 46 yards. The punt return would not have been possible if it were not for John Ameen coming up with a huge block around the Tunkhannock 35-yard line. Musto made it a perfect 6-for-6 for the night and the Patriots lead was 45-6 with 11:44 remaining in the game.
“I was very happy with how we played,” Barrett said. “We ran the ball very well, but we still have some things to work on before next week.
“When looking at the schedule, it doesn’t get easier. We have a very, very tough schedule and we are going to need to prepare and play hard.”