Above left, Pittston Area tailback Justin Wilk runs the ball as Scranton’s Jake McCarthy closes in Monday night in Yatesville. Above right, PA quarterback Anthony Schwab fires a pass downfield for a completion in the Patriots win over Scranton.Photos by BILL TARUTIS
When Pittston Area began practice over a month ago, Head Coach Mike Barrett believed they would be competitive in his first year at the helm. After the team failed to win a game last season, one might have said Barrett’s expectations were a bit far fetched.
However, with a 21-14 victory over Scranton Area, Barrett and his Patriots are beginning to prove they are once again ready to put Pittston Area football back on the map.
“I’m really excited, I love these guys, they are awesome,” Barrett said. “We played tough tonight and I was really happy with how we competed.”
The way the game started, it seemed the Patriots were in for a long night.
Scranton’s Joe McCarthy began the game with a squib kick right up the middle of the field. The Knights recovered the kick and began their first offensive drive of the game on the Patriots 24-yard line. The Patriots stuffed the Knights’ offensive plans however and forced them to punt the ball away.
Pittston Area couldn’t get anything going on their first drive and Chris Musto punted the ball a booming 48 yards to ensure the Knights didn’t get great field position. But McCarthy put a dent in that plan, running the kick back 30 yards all the way to the Patriots 38-yard line.
Scranton drove to the Patriots 24-yard line, but instead of going for a field goal they tried to get the first down on fourth-and-4. Pittston Area had other plans as the duo of Joe Harth and John Ameen stuffed fullback Kyle Czarnowski near the line of scrimmage forcing a turnover on downs. Ameen had a huge night defensively, posting a game-high 15 tackles for the Patriots.
Pittston Area took over on their 22-yard line with 4:46 remaining in the first quarter, and drove for a score to take a 7-0 lead with 23 seconds left in the opening period.
The drive consisted of two Anthony Schwab completions along with some key rushes by Justin Wilk and Marc Romanczuk. Freshman Kyle Gattuso put the Patriots in the red zone when he broke loose for 32 yards.
“Kyle is going to be a good player,” Barrett said. “He showed us what he could do in the offseason and leading up to the season. He works very hard.”
Wilk then went on a jaunt of his own, 12 yards into the end zone, and Musto added the extra-point for the lead.
“The line did a heck of a job blocking tonight (Monday),” Barrett said. “I am so proud of them.”
Scranton came roaring back in the second quarter eventually taking a 14-7 lead.
The McCarthy brothers scored both Knight touchdowns.
Joe found the end zone first, rushing 56 yards to paydirt on the first play of the second quarter, and younger brother Jake scored with 5:55 left in the first half after breaking free for 54 yards.
Scranton converted the two-point conversion after the first touchdown and missed the PAT after the second score.
Neither team found the end zone in the third quarter. However, the Patriots offense erupted for two unanswered touchdowns in the final quarter.
Wilk scored his second touchdown of the game with 10:11 remaining in the game. It came on a 3-yard rush. Musto continued to be consistent with his PATs and the Patriots and Knights were tied at 14-14.
The Patriots weren’t done there.
Romanczuk gave the Patriots the lead and the eventual win by bulldozing his way one-yard across the goal line with 2:42 remaining. Musto was cool under pressure and made it a perfect 9-for-9 on the year with extra points to give PA a 21-14 lead.
The Patriots defense came up big backed by strong efforts from Ameen, Jake Zalewski, Tyler Roman, David Dragon, Cody and Joe Stoss, and Jordan Houseman. All had tremendous games for the Patriots and were a big reason the Patriots stayed in the game.
Dragon notched 11 tackles and Zalewski added seven.
Scranton penalties helped the Patriots in the game, bailing them out of many tough situations. The Knights were penalized 17 times for a total of 165 yards. Many of their penalties came in the final quarter. The Patriots were only penalized three times for a total of 30 yards.
Wilk was the leading rusher for the Patriots. He carried the ball 17 times for a total of 62 yards.
Despite going just 1-for-4 with a touchdown and an interception in the season opener, Schwab drastically improved against the Knights. He was 13-for-20 with 114 yards.
Houseman caught eight balls for 67 yards and added one rush for 34 yards.
“Last week we wanted to establish our running game,” Barrett said. “But this week we let Anthony throw the ball and he did a heck of a job. I was really impressed.”