DALLAS TWP. — From embarrassment in August to vengeance in November.
On the same field where Coughlin lost by 44 points to Dallas in the season opener, the Crusaders delivered a big dose of payback with a 28-0 victory Friday night in a District 2 Class 4A football semifinal game.
Seventh-seeded Coughlin (5-6) will head to third-seeded Valley View (8-3) next Friday for a semifinal game. Second-seeded Dallas ended its year at 7-4.
“The thing was they were our first game,” Coughlin senior running back Jake Cole said of the 54-7 loss to Dallas on Aug. 25. “We had a lot of young starters coming out playing their first varsity game. Another thing, I feel like (Dallas) was a little overconfident. I feel like you should never be overconfident. But they blew us out, you know what I mean?”
Cole had just 37 yards on 11 carries in the first meeting. Quarterback Vincent Todd’s stats were worse — 11 carries for 31 yards.
On Friday night, Cole rushed 23 times for 160 yards and a touchdown despite battling a right-calf cramp in the second half. Todd was even better, with 16 rushes for 241 yards and touchdown runs of 63 and 98 yards.
The defensive effort was equally impressive. The Crusaders held Dallas running back Lenny Kelley to 52 yards on 15 carries after he had rushed for 206 yards and four touchdowns on 18 totes in the August game. Defensive backs Rafael McCoy and Pat Strouse had interceptions. Defensive tackle Alex Gulitus and linebacker Eric Sovan led a pass rush that recorded four sacks.
All this coming after a 42-0 loss to Wyoming Valley West in the Crusaders’ regular-season finale.
“I’ll tell you what, these kids, it rolled right down their back,” Coughlin coach Ciro Cinti said. “We knew we were playing Dallas and they kind of sparked up because they embarrassed us the first time. How many times are you going to get slapped in the face? You have to come back and the kids did. They responded.
“Our key players made great plays today.”
Coughlin turned a scoreless game into a 21-0 halftime lead in a span of a little over six minutes in the second quarter.
The Crusaders drove 80 yards for their first touchdown as runs of 27 and 16 yards by Cole along with a 22-yard run by Todd set up Cole’s 2-yard run.
Todd then made two spectacular plays to boost the advantage to 21-0.
On the first play after a Dallas punt, Todd fumbled a shotgun snap, picked up the football and took off on a 63-yard TD run for a 14-0 lead at 7:33.
Coughlin forced a Dallas punt on the Mountaineers’ next possession, and Todd returned the kick 62 yards for a touchdown. Todd danced around trying to find running room and once too many Dallas defenders converged too tightly, he found a running lane to the end zone.
“I was just looking for a hole,” Todd said. “I was kind reminded me of how God parted the Red Sea. I saw a big hole open and I had to take it. It was unbelievable.”
Dallas had a chance to cut into the deficit in the latter part of the third quarter, but Kelley had a 10-yard touchdown run negated by a holding penalty. Four passes from goal-to-go situation from the Coughlin 18-yard line fell incomplete.
The Mountaineers’ last chance to score ended on McCoy’s interception at the Coughlin 7 with 4:11 left in the fourth quarter.
Coughlin appeared to put the final touches on the victory when Cole ran 90 yards for a touchdown two plays after McCoy’s pick, only to have the score wiped out by a holding penalty. A play later —and after a Coughlin penalty — Todd turned the left corner off a block from fullback Jervone Young and sprinted 98 yards for a touchdown.