EAST STROUDSBURG – Niko Petrone ran wild for East Stroudsburg South, scoring three touchdowns of 40 or more yards in a 39-22 non-conference victory over Hazleton Area on Friday night.
Petrone owned the Purple Pit, bursting through the Cougars defense for a 40-yard touchdown on South's first possession, staking the Cavaliers to an early 7-0 lead. The lead was quickly two scores, as Ben Nieves scooped up a Hazleton Area fumble and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown, extending the East Stroudsburg South lead to 14-0 less than three minutes into the game.
But the Cougars (1-8) bounced back, scoring 22 consecutive points and taking the lead heading into halftime.
Devion Barlow caught a 24-yard TD pass from Julius Ward to get Hazleton Area on the board and Tristan Williams booted a 30-yard field goal to make it 14-9. Ward followed with a 20-yard scoring run to give Hazleton Area a 15-14 lead with two minutes left in the half.
After the break, the Cougars struck again with Zach Zukoski punching it in from 3 yards out, making it 22-14 midway through the third quarter.
The Cavaliers (6-3) closed their deficit to 22-20 on Ryan Nazario's 18-yard catch from Tyler McLaughlin less than two minutes after Zukoski's run. The two-point try failed, but East Stroudsburg South still had Petrone at the ready.
Petrone had runs of 61 and 68 yards in the fourth quarter to give the Cavaliers the lead for good. His last touchdown made it 32-22 with four minutes remaining.
From there, South returned another fumble for a touchdown to ice the game in the waning moments.