WILKES-BARRE — The Coughlin Crusaders have changed the direction of their football season.
After Saturday night’s game at Memorial Stadium, the Wyoming Area Warriors are desperate to do the same.
Jake Cole used his second straight 200-yard rushing game to lead Coughlin to its second consecutive win, 17-14.
The Crusaders were 0-2 and behind at halftime a week ago, having been outscored 110-14 to that point. Since then, Coughlin has outscored its opponents, 37-14, and turned around its season, reaching the .500 mark.
“Our kids never say die,” Coughlin coach Ciro Cinti said. “Kids are getting more comfortable in their positions. We have a fairly young line, but now we’re into the fourth game.
“They have half a season under their belt. They’re only getting better at this point.”
Wyoming Area can’t shake the tight games. After winning by four points on opening night, the Warriors have lost three straight three-point games.
“We’re working hard and we’re not getting paid off,” Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer said. “We’ve got to be able to go to the bank and cash a check one day.”
Coughlin took advantage of a Wyoming Area penalty early in the game and Cole kept the Crusaders in possession while they protected leads of either three or 10 points the rest of the night.
The senior running back carried 26 times for 202 yards and both of his team’s touchdowns.
“Jake Cole’s a four-year starter for us,” Cinti said. “The bottom line is when the game’s on the line, we like to have the ball in his hands.”
The Crusaders held a 7-3 lead from 7:56 remaining in the half until 2:44 remaining in the game.
That’s when Cole went 12 yards for a touchdown on fourth-and-two.
Wyoming Area responded with an 11-play scoring drive, converting third-and-nine, fourth-and-five and third-and-five.
Marc Anthony Minichello, who had both Wyoming Area touchdowns, scored on a 5-yard pass from Dominic DeLuca with 33.5 seconds remaining, but Eric Sovan handled the on-side kick to clinch the Coughlin win.
Coughlin did not move on its first three plays, but a Wyoming Area personal foul penalty on the punt allowed the Crusaders to maintain possession for the first 7:40 of the game.
Wyoming Area stopped Coughlin twice from the 2 before a penalty forced the Crusaders to settle for a 23-yard Jeff Mondulick field goal.
“We certainly had an opportunity to get off to a better start there,” Spencer said.
Both teams struck quickly in the second quarter.
On the first play after stopping Wyoming Area on fourth-and-one, Cole went up the middle for a 57-yard touchdown, slipping one tackle near midfield and then winning a race to the goal line.
Wyoming Area answered on the ensuing kickoff when Minichello made it to the right sideline then sprinted the rest of the way to a 90-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 10-7 with 7:56 left in the half.
Cole surpassed the 100-yard mark in the first half.
Wyoming Area managed just one play of more than nine yards in the first half when DeLuca hit Brian Williams on a fly pattern for 43 yards to the Coughlin 29 late in the half. Four straight incompletions ended the threat.
Coughlin 17, Wyoming Area 14
CO – Jeff Mondulick 23 FG, 4:20
CO – Jake Cole 57 run (Mondulick kick), 8:09
WA – Marc Anthony Minichello 90 kickoff return (F.J. Braccini kick), 7:56
CO – Jake Cole 12 run (Mondulick kick), 2:44
WA – Minichello 5 pass from DeLuca (Braccini kick), 0:33.5
RUSHING — WA, Marc Anthony Minichello 10-39, Dominic DeLuca 5-19, Darren Rodney 5-18, Donovan O’Boyle 2-6, Robbie Trottini 1-5, Charlie Banashefski 1-3. CO, Jake Cole 26-202, Vincent Todd 13-41, Garrett Wardle 4-20, Team 1-minus 1.
PASSING — WA, DeLuca 12-26-0-120, Trottini 1-1-0-28, Minichello 1-1-0-17, Team 0-1-0-0. CO, Wardle 3-8-0-49.
RECEIVING — WA, Minichello 8-42, Shane Eslick 3-38, Brian Williams 2-68, Trottini 1-17. CO, Salem Diop 1-33, Rafael McCoy 1-18, Cole 1-minus 2.