Big plays were Pittston Area’s Achilles’ heel in last week’s 28-0 loss to Abington Heights. Not much has changed for the Patriots in the past seven days.
Pittston Area gave up three touchdowns of more than 50 yards en route to its second straight loss to open the 2013 campaign, 34-18, at the hands of Scranton Friday night.
Knights tailback Jake McCarthy rushed for 212 yards on 24 carries. He also caught a 53-yard touchdown pass from Jake Pieczynzki. But most of that damage was done in the second half.
The Patriots and the Knights were locked in a battle defensively in the first two quarters. Neither team was able to move the ball efficiently down the field — something Pittston Area coach Mike Barrett took notice of.
“I can’t ask for the kids to play better,” Pittston Area coach Mike Barrett said. “I think we fought a little harder tonight, I really do. The defense was just giving up big plays. We can’t continue to give up big plays. It was the same thing last week. We missed some very big opportunities tonight.”
Following a shutout at the hands of Abington Heights, Pittston Area’s offense put the ball in the end zone for the first three times of the 2013 season.
After 3-yard touchdown run from McCarthy to open the scoring, Hassan Maxwell returned the ensuing kickoff 68 yards right up middle of the Scranton gunners. On the very next play, Kyle Gattuso scampered 13 yards to put the Patriots on the board for the first time in 2013.
Gattuso finished with his second straight game over 90 yards with 122 yards on 22 carries — he had 91 yards last week against Abington Heights.
Gattuso’s score, however, would be Pittston Area’s last until the fourth quarter. And finishing drives, a problem they had last week, was starting to cause problems Friday night.
There were many dropped passes that would have resulted in first downs from quarterback James Emmett. Emmett endured the dropped passes in the first half — his second half would improve.
McCarthy’s touchdown through the air came with 3:51 to play in the first half to make it 13-6.
With time still on the clock, Emmett hit tight end Michael Harth for 31 yards on the Patriots’ ensuing possession to get Pittston down to its own 37.
On a third-and-13 from the 34, Emmett went deep to Maxwell streaking wide open in the end zone. The ball was barely under-thrown and broken up by Scranton’s Bryan Keller. Emmett finished with 153 yards and a touchdown — a much better performance from a week ago.
“Our line did a great job blocking,” Barrett said when asked about the passing game. “(Scranton) is an aggressive football team. We did a good job matching their intensity.”
The start of the fourth quarter may have been where Pittston Area lost the game.
After fumbling the opening kickoff — and recovering it — Emmett’s first play was intercepted by Anthony Tooson. Three straight runs for McCarthy and the Knights were back up two scores, 20-6.
“They are correctable,” Barrett said of his team’s mistakes. “They have to realize it. They’re seeing it on film and realizing it. Awareness is key.”
With 2:35 to play in the third quarter, Pittston Area put together its best drive of the season, by far.
The Patriots started on their own 25. Maxwell went up the middle for 9 yards just before Gattuso broke free for a gain of 27. Pittston faced a 4th-and-7 at the Knights’ 37 when Emmett found Harth again. This time for 15 yards.
Gattuso added in a 15-yard run prior to scoring from two yards out to tighten the game 20-12.
“That’s where we’ve grown,” Barrett said. “Our kids fought tonight. We came back and could have made it a seven point ball game. We’re going to get better. There’s not doubt about it.”
But like clockwork, more big plays from Scranton. Pieczynski hit Joshua Gonzalez for a 51-yard score that took the wind out of Pittston Area’s sails. And that’s when the Patriots were moving the football.
Both teams added scores in the final five minutes.
Emmett found Rich Weinstock, who made a terrific grab in the end zone, for 24 yards. The very next play after Scranton regained possession, McCarthy went 65 yards to the house.
“Abington and Scranton are both solid football teams,” Barrett said. “They’re not making those mistakes, they’re taking advantage of them. We’re going to get better. I think we’re a good football team. We just need to win some games down the stretch.”
Pittston Area travels to Crestwood next Friday night.