Wyoming Area quarterback Nick O’Brien runs away from a Northwest defender during the Warriors 50-17 victory over the Rangers on Friday night. The victory solidified a playoff berth for WA.Photo by Fred A. Adams
Above, Wyoming Area’s Joe Adonizio gets tackled by a Northwest defender after grabing a pass during the first quarter of the Warriors 50-17 victory. Below, WA freshman running back Jeff Skursky rumbles for yardage against Northwest.photos by fred A. Adams
It was only fitting that three days before Halloween, the Wyoming Area football team got a bit of a scare.
Northwest played the Warriors tough in the first half as the West Siders held just a slim eight-point lead at halftime. But it was the Wyoming Area offensive juggernaut that was downright scary in the second half, racking up 337 yards on the ground on its way to a dominating 50-17 victory over the Rangers on Friday night at Lewis and Miller Memorial Stadium in Shickshinny.
Nick O’Brien led the way with another monster game for the Warriors, checking in with 216 yards rushing and four scores on 22 carries. His Friday night total pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. O’Brien has 1,053 yards on 103 carries. The junior has also scored 23 touchdowns in Wyoming Area’s eight games. O’Brien has now rushed for over 2,000 yards and 40 touchdowns the past two seasons.
“Nick is a very dynamic athlete,” said Head Coach Randy Spencer. “All those skills, all those tools but at the same time one of his most valuable commodities is his leadership. He’s tough, he’s gritty, and he was the guy leading the charge in the second half, coming out setting the tempo you’ve got to give him credit.”
O’Brien kicked off the scoring when took the snap and moved to his left before bursting into the secondary and zigzagging his way through the defense en route to a 59 yard touchdown run giving the Warriors a quick 7-0 lead three minutes into the game.
The Ranger offense tested the Warrior run-D but Wyoming Area bent but didn’t break and forced a Northwest punt.
On the third play of the ensuing drive, Skursky bounced the inside carry out to his left and the powerful back showed some speed as he went 46 yards before being tackled from behind. He took the next two handoffs for six and four before getting the ball on first-and-goal from the two and walking into the endzone untouched as the WA line pushed the Northwest D-line three yards off the ball.
The ensuing kickoff was returned up the middle for a 98 yard touchdown by Northwest and the two-point conversion was good cutting the lead to 14-8 WA with 1:10 left in the first.
Wyoming Area punted on their next possession but the defense held Northwest to a three-and-out and got the ball right back.
After being stopped on their first three plays, WA was forced into a punting situation. O’Brien took the snap and punted the ball deep. Jake Smith hustled down the field and laid a huge hit on the Ranger returner, who immediately coughed up the ball, leaving Cody Schmitz to pick it up and run 27 yards for the special teams score. Skursky added the two-point conversion to push the lead to 22-8.
On their next possession, Northwest cut the lead to 22-14 on a 16 yard post pattern at the 2:20 mark and that was the score that would be taken into the half.
“We called their attention to the urgency,” Spencer said. “When you need that, you’ve got to turn to your leaders, you’ve got to turn to your seniors and upfront I think the offensive line came out and did what we needed to do and O’Brien took charge and when your leader steps up everybody else follows suit.”
The Warriors followed their leader, Nick O’Brien, in the second half - right into the endzone.
O’Brien opened the third quarter with a 53 yard scamper to the Ranger six yard line. After a five yard run by O’Brien, he took the ball out of the I-formation and dove over the line for the score to cap the three-play 1:06 drive and push the lead to 29-14.
The first play for the Rangers resulted in a fumble which Corey Popovich dove on to give the ball back to the Warriors at the Northwest 15 with 10:32 left in the third. The senior had a huge night defensively, recording a team-high eight tackles, including two sacks.
After the first three plays failed to pick up a first down, the Warriors faced a fourth-and-five from the 10 yard line. O’Brien took the handoff and cut outside. He leaped over a defender and was blasted out of mid-air by a Ranger defensive lineman. However, Coach Spencer decided to give the ball right back to O’Brien who ran off tackle and found a hole to cross the goal line for a three-yard touchdown pushing the Warriors lead to 36-14 just 3:41 into the half.
“It was a pretty big hit,” said O’Brien with a smile. “It’s so cold out here I didn’t really feel it. Coach called the play, I just hit the hole and the line did a good job guiding me to the endzone.”
After the defense forced a punt, Skursky took the first play and rumbled for 10.Two plays later, he cut outside and went for 19 down to the Northwest 22.The very next play saw O’Brien cut the ball outside to his left where he was in a footrace and used his speed to get the ball to the pylon with 2:59 left in the third, stretching the Warrior lead to 43-14.
After a big return into WA territory, the Warrior defense was able to stop the Ranger offense and hold them to a 27 yard field goal just 10 seconds into the fourth.
After the Northwest score, the attempted onside kick was recovered by the Warriors giving them a short field, starting at their own 49.Wyoming Area only needed seven plays to score when O’Brien hit Zach LaNunziata in the flat and he took it seven yards for the score expanding the WA lead to 50-17 which is how the game would end.
The Warriors (6-2) will face their rivals, Pittston Area, next week in the final game of the year.
“Obviously we are looking for a big win there,” said O’Brien about the WA-PA game. “The rivalry, it’s been going on for years so it’s a tradition so we will see if we can get a win in there, we’re pretty excited.”