PALMYRA TWP. – The Wyoming Valley West defense got off to a slow start in Thursday night’s District 2 Class 5A football championship game.
The Spartans’ offense started slower and was slower to recover.
Wyoming Valley West had plenty of finishing power, however, in a 35-7 rout over top-seeded host Wallenpaupack that avenged a loss on the same field six weeks earlier.
Rob Dwyer ran for 111 yards and three touchdowns while throwing for another score and helping the Spartans outgain the Buckhorns 306-81 in a game that was played in a steady rain for more than three quarters.
The Spartans defense allowed Wallenpaupack just one first down in 10 possessions after a game-opening scoring drive.
“We stayed focused, had a good game on defense, turned it up on offense and just made plays,” said sophomore defensive end Sammy Solomon, who had two sacks and another tackle for loss among his seven tackles that went along with three assists, a deflected pass and a pass rush.
Wyoming Valley West was 1-5 when it walked off the field following an error-filled 28-21 loss at Wallenpaupack. It is 5-1 since to climb back to the .500 mark, claim the district title and advance into District 2-11 Subregional play against the Whitehall-Southern Lehigh winner.
“We’ve been able to, in the past few weeks, eliminate a lot of mistakes that we making early in the year,” Spartans coach Pat Keating said. “It’s just showing with the way that we’re playing.
“We’re playing more physical. We’re playing more confident. We’re eliminating them and it’s translating into wins.”
Once it settled in, Valley West’s line dominated on both sides of the ball, leading to a 289-26 advantage in rushing yards.
Wallenpaupack moved 57 yards in seven plays to score 4:15 into the game. The Buckhorns gambled and converted fourth-and-1 from the 48, then took advantage of a blown coverage on third-and-7 for Tom McCormick to hit Aiden Maldacker wide open down the middle for a 37-yard touchdown.
That was the last time the Buckhorns had room to run free. They gained just 11 yards in the next eight possessions, which resulted in seven straight three-and-outs before a failed fake punt attempt.
Wallenpaupack’s next first down did not come until it had just enough to pick up a third-and-10 with 7:36 left and Wyoming Valley West holding a 28-7 lead.
The Spartans had their own troubles with moving the ball early.
The teams combined for six straight three-and-outs following Wallenpaupack’s touchdown.
That streak ended when Dwyer turned Wyoming Valley West’s initial first down into a 55-yard touchdown when he took a keeper down the left sideline with 8:45 left in the second quarter.
The Spartans built momentum from there.
Wyoming Valley West ripped through the Wallenpaupack defense for 58 yards on eight straight runs on the next drive, which resulted in Dwyer’s 4-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 halftime lead.
With the defense dominating, the Spartans had the field position edge the rest of the way.
They moved 55 yards in nine plays and 37 yards in six plays on two third-quarter scoring drives. Dwyer hit Dylan Jockel all alone for a 6-yard touchdown on a second-and-goal, play-action pass, then ran 11 yards for the next score.
“In the beginning of the year, we just couldn’t get away from mistakes,” Dwyer said. “We kept making mental mistakes like false starts, fumbles, missed throws by me, turning the ball over way too much. We had games where we doubled the other team’s yards in offense and we still lost the game because of penalties and turnovers.
“We grew up. I wish we could have been doing it all year, but it all matters right now in the playoffs.”
Zach Davies broke a 35-yard touchdown run with 4:55 left to complete the scoring.
Wallenpaupack finished 5-6.
Wyo. Valley West 35, Wallenpaupack 7
Wyo. Val. West`0`14`14`7`—`35
WAL – Aiden Maldacker 39 pass from Tom McCormick (Zach Maldacker kick), 7:45
WVW – Rob Dwyer 55 run (Jake Gurtis kick), 8:45
WVW – Dwyer 4 run (Gurtis kick), 3:30
WVW – Dylan Jockel 6 pass from Dwyer (Gurtis kick), 4:31
WVW – Dwyer 11 run (Gurtis kick), 0:11
WVW – Davies 35 run (Gurtis kick), 4:55
RUSHING — WVW, Rob Dwyer 13-111, Sean Mikovitch 15-96, Zach Davies 7-64, Darrian Tyson 1-12, Brendan Woods 2-11, Carson Canavan 1-7, Jayden Watkins 1-(minus-3), Jake Shusta 2-(minus-4), Sulaiman Ismail 1-(minus-5). WAL, Joe Ingulli 15-45, Aiden Maldacker 2-4, Nicholas Ruggieri 3-2, Tyler Neglia 1-(minus-4), Tom McCormick 7-(minus-21).
PASSING — WVW, Dwyer 3-5-0-17, Shusta 0-1-0-0. WAL, McCormick 5-14-0-55, Ingulli 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — WVW, Jake Blaski 2-11, Dylan Jockel 1-6. WAL, AMaldacker 3-50, Ingulli 2-5.
INTERCEPTIONS — None.
MISSED FIELD GOALS – None.