Above, Wyoming Area quarterback Nick O’Brien runs a keeper as Pittston Area’s Jordan Houseman, left, and Jake Zalewski go for the tackle. The Patriots held O’Brien out of the endzone for the first time this season. Below left, PA’s Joe Starinsky is brought down after one of his game-high four catches. Below right, WA’s Cody Schmitz turns the corner on one of his five rushes.photos by BILL TARUTIS
Pittston Area defensive lineman Anthony Haughton holds the Carmen Falcone Most Valuable Player Trophy with PA defensive coordinator Jack Kuchak after the Patriots defeating Wyoming Area 24-21 in West Pittston on Friday night.photo by BILL TARUTIS
Pittston Area quarterback Anthony Schwab rolls out for a pass during the Patriots win over Wyoming Area. Schwab threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and ran in another.photo by BILL TARUTIS
Above, Pittston Area fullback Marc Romanczuk breaks through the Wyoming Area defensive line for a big gain during the Patriots win. Below left, Wyoming Area running back Ahmad Bouie breaks free of a tackle during Friday’s night game against rival Pittston Area. Below right, PA’s Jordan Houseman is tackled by WA’s Jordan Zezza after one of his three receptions.photos by BILL TARUTIS
In a game with so much emotion and intensity, records don’t mean much – especially in the Cross River Rivalry.
The annual affair between Pittston Area and Wyoming Area usually comes down to a few big plays or a few missed opportunities. Despite being a underdog based on records, the Patriots made sure they were on the right side of both.
Pittston Area stepped up its game and took advantage of those opportunities while the Warriors let them slip away as the Patriots came away with a thrilling 24-21 victory on Friday night in front of a packed house at Anthony “Jake” Sobeski Stadium in West Pittston.
Pittston Area quarterback Anthony Schwab ran the show for the Patriots, throwing for 160 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for another, but it was the PA defense that keyed the win over the playoff-bound Warriors.
Defensive linemen Anthony Houghton and Dave Mawson controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the night, combining for 20 tackles, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a sack while containing one of the most explosive offenses in the Wyoming Valley Conference. Haughton’s play earned him the 34th Annual Carmen Falcone MVP Trophy. The 6’2, 270-pound junior recorded 13 tackles, a sack and forced two fumbles. He is just the third lineman to receive the MVP honor in the award’s history.
“They played outstanding,” said Pittston Area Head Coach Mike Barrett of Mawson and Haughton. “They played like they were possessed. They shut them down tonight and I am so proud of them.”
While Houghton, Mawson and the rest of the PA defense was holding the explosive Wyoming Area offense in check, Schwab made play after play to continually move the Patriots offense.
A Schwab to Joe Starinsky completion for 33 yards on the Patriots second possession of the night put Pittston Area at the Warriors 1-yard line. But the Patriots settled for a 23-yard Chris Musto field goal when WA’s defense – led by linebacker Jake Smith – stood tough to hold Pittston Area to just three points with 4:49 left in the first quarter.
The Patriots defense held the potent Warriors offense to a three-and-out after two center-to-quarterback miscues cause breakdowns on first and second down.
Schwab and the Pittston Area offense wasted no time once they got the ball back. After a 4-yard Marc Romanczuk carry and an incomplete pass, Schwab hit Evan Hahn, who found himself behind defensive back Ahmad Bouie, for a 51-yard touchdown with 1:23 left in the quarter. Musto’s extra-point attempt was true, and the Patriots led 10-0.
Wyoming Area answered right back.
Cody Schmitz went for nine yards on an option from quarterback Nick O’Brien, and two plays later O’Brien ripped off a 13-yard scamper to the PA 49. After two 3-yard runs by Corey Popovich, O’Brien hit Bouie with a quick pass and the senior speedster made a move to shake his defender and pick up 16 yards.
A Jeff Skursky 1-yard run, and a 13-yard O’Brien to Adonizio connection, led to O’Brien picking up 12 yards with his feet when he rolled right and planted his foot in the ground before bursting through the hole to the 1-yard line.
Skursky took the handoff on the next play and went untouched into the endzone to cap an 11-play, 75-yard drive to cut the lead to 10-7 with 8:17 left in the half.
However, Pittston Area was not deterred.
On their first play of the drive, Schwab found star wideout Jordan Houseman for his first catch of the night, a 19-yard gain. Junior tailback Justin Wilk then ripped off a 50-yard run as he took the handoff and burst through the hole into the secondary before he was tackled at the 6-yard line by O’Brien.
After a big tackle-for-loss by Smith, Schwab play-actioned, rolled left and hit tight end Brian Delaney in the endzone giving the Patriots a 17-7 lead with 6:53 left in the first half.
Wyoming Area took their next drive and relied on O’Brien who rushed the ball four times for 30 yards to help string together a 9-play, 41-yard drive. However, on fourth-and-7 from the PA 24, Mawson got his hand on an O’Brien pass and the Patriots forced the turnover on downs to get the ball back with 2:17 left in the half.
After Wilk opened the drive with a 15-yard scamper, the PA drive stalled. But on fourth-and-7, and in punt formation, the snap to Musto sailed over his head giving the Warriors the ball on the 15-yard line with 57 seconds left.
After an incompletion, O’Brien took the snap and rolled to his left looking down field, but he didn’t see Haughton coming from his blind side, and the big Patriots defensive lineman jarred the ball loose. Teammate Josh Blaker dove on the loose pigskin, and the Patriots took its 17-7 lead into the locker room for intermission.
Wyoming Area came out fired up out in the second half and on their first play from scrimmage, Bouie dashed for a 19-yard gain after making a nice cut leaving his defender frozen. The Patriots defense forced a fourth down after stopping O’Brien for minus-2 yards. The Warriors came out in a punt formation but O’Brien took the snap and rolled to his right before hitting Zach LaNunziata for 12 yards and a big fourth-down conversion to keep the drive alive.
But WA stalled after driving the ball for 12 more yards to the PA 21, where they would set up for a 38-yard field goal. However, the kick fell short and Pittston Area would again hold the Warriors to a turnover-on-downs.
With the offense having trouble getting in sync, the Warriors defense stepped up and held the Patriots to a three-and-out. A shanked punt then gave Wyoming Area the ball at Pittston Area’s 26.
O’Brien took the first play and went for 10 to the PA 16, but a personal foul penalty after the play moved the Warriors back 15 yards from the end of the play to set up first down at the Patriots 31. After a 2-yard O’Brien run, a pass interference call on the Patriots gave the Warriors the ball on the PA 14-yard line. The Warriors got the ball to the Pittston Area six, but on fourth-and-one, the Patriot defensive line stopped Skursky on a dive play and forced another turnover-on-downs.
It was the third time Pittston Area stopped Wyoming Area inside the 25.
“I think you go back and you look at those key plays, most games you’ll find five or six and it was definitely those in this game,” said Wyoming Area Head Coach Randy Spencer on the missed field goal and the two turnover-on-downs deep in PA territory. “That absolutely is the difference in the football game. You’ve got to give Coach Barrett and his coaches credit.”
The Warriors knocked Schwab for a 5-yard loss after the punt, forcing the Patriots inside their own 1-yard line. Pittston Area ran two plays up the middle for breathing room before punting it back to the Warriors.
After a scoreless third quarter, Wyoming Area sent its offense back on the field with 11:11 left in the fourth, facing a 17-7 deficit.
On their second play of the possession, O’Brien hit Dylan Pegg for a 12-yard gain and on the ensuing play a pass interference call on PA gave Wyoming Area the ball on the Patriots 25. O’Brien hit Schmitz for 10 yards before Bouie dashed through the line for 14 yards before being tripped up at the 1.
Skursky finished the drive off with a touchdown on a dive play. The extra point was no good, but the Patriots lead was cut to 17-13 with 9:38 left in the game.
The Warriors defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing PA drive to set up the Warriors at their own 42.
On their second down, O’Brien went for 13 yards and PA was whistled for a dead ball personal foul, adding another 15 to the end of the run giving WA the ball at the Patriots 28-yard line.
On the very next play, Jordan Zezza took the snap at quarterback and ran the option with O’Brien who was positioned at tailback. O’Brien took the pitch, scrambled to the right, but then stopped and fired the ball down field to a wide-open Joe Adonizio for the score and the first Warriors lead of the game. O’Brien added the two-point conversion, and Wyoming Area led 21-17 with 6:43 left in the final quarter.
Pittston Area however would not be denied.
The Patriots began the game-winning drive from their own 27 yard line, and after a Schwab to Houseman 5-yard hook-up, Wilk went for 11 for a first down to the PA 44.
But the Warriors forced the Patriots into a fourth down situation and a timeout three plays later with just over four minutes left in the game.
Barrett sent his offense back on the field out of the timeout, and on fourth down, Schwab took the snap, rolled to his left before firing the ball downfield to Starinsky for a 25-yard gain and a first down in Wyoming Area territory.
“We had so much time, especially on that last fourth down conversion on the post to Starinsky,” said Schwab. “I could have sat back there for hours.”
The next play saw Romanczuk rumble for 36 yards to the one inch-line before Schwab took a quick snap, and fell into the endzone to reclaim the lead for the Patriots, 24-21, with 3:13 left in the game.
Wyoming Area would still have a chance – two actually
On first down of the ensuing possession, O’Brien hit Schmitz for 11 to get the drive moving. But the Warriors got no further after O’Brien rolled left on fourth-and-5 and had his pass attempt tipped by Tyler Roman forcing the turnover on downs.
Pittston Area tried to kill some time off of the clock after taking over, but it would give Wyoming Area the ball back with just over one minute left in the game.
O’Brien threw incomplete on first down, and a huge gain on second down was denied when O’Brien’s pass went through the hands of the WA receiver. Another incompletion forced a fourth-and-10 with the game on the line.
O’Brien took the snap, dropped back, and avoided the rush before rolling to his right. He scrambled away from the defenders but as he stopped to pass, Mawson crushed him from behind forcing a fumble and sealing the victory and bragging rights for the Patriots.
“It was awesome. I wish we played defense like that all year long. They were animals,” said Barrett. “I think it was a learning process throughout the year. It was awesome for the seniors to be sent off this way. Great, great game on both sides of the ball.
“It was a huge win for the program. Tonight we played four quarters of football and we played great. I am so proud of these kids.”
Pittston Area was led on offense by Schawb who finished 10-for-16 for 160 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, the Patriots were led by Wilk who rushed 10 times for 84 yards, and Romanczuk who also rushed 10 times for 55 yards. Starinsky finished with 69 yards on four receptions and Houseman hauled in three catches for 31 yards.
Defensively, the play of Haughton and Mawson on the defensive line freed up Patriot linebackers Joe Giambra and Sam Falcone to register some impressive numbers as well. The junior duo split 20 tackles as they helped PA keep O’Brien from making big plays.
O’Brien led the Warriors offense with 119 yards rushing and 105 yards passing. But the junior human-highlight reel was held out of the endzone for the first time this season. O’Brien had scored 25 touchdowns in eight previous games.
Skursky, the WA freshman halfback, scored two touchdowns for the Warriors but gained just six yards on six carries. Bouie added 44 yards on the ground and 22 yards on two receptions for Wyoming Area.
Schmitz led the Warriors receiving corps with three catches for 23 yards. He also rushed five times for 16 yards.
Defensively, WA was led by senior linebackers Matt Kintz who had nine tackles, and Jake Smith who had six, including five for a loss. O’Brien, Schmitz and EJ Driving Hawk chipped in with four stops each.