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Warriors ‘D’ a royal pain for Redeemer

Wyoming Area harasses Royals in 44-12 beatdown

Above, Wyoming Area linebackers Matt Kintz (1) and Eric Filipiak (80) get after Holy Redeemer QB David Gawlas for one of the Warriors seven sacks on the night. Below, freshman running back Jeff Skursky (35) runs behind the blocking of Joe Taylor (54) and Corey Popovich (4) during the Warriors 44-12 win over the Royals.

photos by tony callaio

The first Holy Redeemer series set the stage for what was to come.

The Royals threw an incomplete pass, followed by a run for minus-three yards before being sacked by Wyoming Area;s Nick Bartoli to force a fourth-and-18 from their two-yard line. So when the snap to the punter sailed out of bounds for a safety, you could tell it was just going to be one of those nights for the Wyoming Valley Conference’s best defense.

The Wyoming Area defensive line spent most of its night in the Holy Redeemer backfield, harassing the Royals into seven sacks, five turnover-on-downs and just 92 yards of offense en route to a 44-12 victory on Friday night at Jake Sobieski Stadium in West Pittston.

"We wanted to attack with some with aggressive pressure, the key to that is getting containment," said coach Randy Spencer. "I thought we got a nice job from our ends Trent Grove, Joe Taylor, Corey Popovich"

After the safety and the quick 2-0 lead, it took all of two plays before Nick O’Brien took the QB keeper and went 36 yards unscathed for the touchdown at the 9:29 mark of the first quarter.

After the defense forced a turnover-on-downs, the Royals defenders saw a lot of the Warriors’ powerback, Jeff Skursky. He took his first carry for 16 and his second for 14 down to the Holy Redeemer 40. O’Brien took the QB keeper and hurdled a defender before being dragged down after a 20-yard gain. Finally, Skursky finished off the four-play, 56-second drive with a bruising 20-yard TD run up the middle. He also, punched in the two-point conversion giving WA a 16-0 lead.

Justin Langdon came up with an interception at the Holy Redeemer 37-yard line but on the Warriors second play, O’Brien overthrew his wide receiver and the ball was picked off and returned 80-yards for a touchdown cutting the WA lead to 16-6 with 2:18 left in the first quarter.

Things seemed like they were going sour after the ball was fumbled on the ensuing kick return and the Royals jumped on it at the 47-yard line.

However, the Warrior defense picked up where they left off, forcing a turnover-on-downs after a Ryan Filipiak and Popovich sack.

With the ball at the Holy Redeemer 35, it was back to the big man in the back field as Skursky went for 13 then 15 to set-up the ball on the Royals’ 7-yard line. Skursky took the handoff and trampled the Holy Redeemer defenders for his second score of the game, pushing the lead to 23-6 Wyoming Area with 32-seconds left in the first quarter.

Holy Redeemers next drive went for minus-11 yards after a Popovich sack and then a Taylor sack to force the turnover-on-downs, giving the Warriors the ball at the Royals’ 39.

After a five-yard penalty on HR, Skursky went for eight and O’Brien hit Grove for eight down to the 18-yard line. Then, O’Brien faked the handoff and rolled to his right, out ran the pursuing defenders to cross the goalline for the second time giving Wyoming Area a 30-6 lead.

After making a play on offense, O’Brien stepped up on defense when he intercepted the pass from the HR quarterback and returned it nine-yards to the 49 of the Royals.

After a Popovich six-yard carry, he got the ball again and burst through the line for 14-yards before slipping while trying to make a cut. Two plays later, Popovich got the ball again and once again burst into the Royals’ secondary, this time he used the stiffarm to help him gain 22-yards to the HR five. Two plays later, O’Brien rolled right and lofted an easy pass to a wide-open Grove in the back of the endzone for a 37-6 lead with 31 seconds left in the half.

After the Warriors recovered the Royals onside kick to start the half, they drove to the 29-yard line before stalling, giving HR the ball at their own 23-yard line.

Two plays later, Dylan Pegg came up with the Warriors third interception of the night, but the Warriors offense stalled again as the rain poured down. The snap sailed over O’Brien’s head on the punt attempt and Holy Redeemer recovered it at the Warrior 18-yard line.

However, the defense helped pick up the offensive miscue when after an incomplete pass, Popovich came up with a sack and then stopped the screen pass for minus-seven forcing a fourth-and-25. The defensive front put pressure on the Royals quarterback forcing an intentional grounding call and yet another turnover-on-downs.

Ahmad Bouie took the first play of the drive for six, before O’Brien ripped off a 15-yard carry which could have been much more if he didn’t trip over one of his own players. Regardless, the next play went 30-yards for a touchdown via the legs of Nick O’Brien pushing the lead to 44-6 with 4:07 left in the third quarter.

With 41 seconds left in the third quarter, the WA defense gave up their first points on a blown coverage allowing the Royals to cut the lead to 44-12.

Jordan Zezza came up with a big interception in the endzone with eight minutes left, giving the Warriors the ball and allowing them to kill most of the clock.

"We feel pretty good about our match ups upfront and we wanted to let them to do some work tonight," said Spencer. "Skursky’s a young back, combined with the effort of our line, fullback and tight end, they did a great job running the ball"

The Warriors will face GAR on Saturday night at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium in a showdown for not only first place in the Wyoming Valley Conference Class 2A/A standings, but also in the race for the top seed in the District 2 Class 2A playoffs.

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