YATESVILLE – Sam Falcone had one wish. Actually, two.
The Pittston Area senior linebacker wanted to force Hazleton Area into three-and-outs all night. And he wanted to break through the line and bring down Cougar signal-caller Julius Ward.
He got both.
The Patriot defense was stout for three quarters and never broke in the fourth quarter in the midst of a Hazleton Area rally as Pittston Area held on for a 26-21 win Friday night at Charley Trippi Stadium.
Pittston Area (2-3) took a 26-7 lead into the fourth quarter, but Ward and Nick George punched the pigskin in the end zone as the Cougars rallied, down by five with eight minutes left.
Hazleton Area's last-ditch effort fell about 24 yards short, though, as Ward's second-down pass was batted up at the line of scrimmage and landed in the hands of Patriot lineman Anthony Haughton, sealing the hard-fought win with 41 seconds left.
"It was such a great feeling. I can't even describe it when we got the last interception," Falcone said.
Hazleton Area had less than 50 yards of offense in the first half, and the Cougars couldn't control the line of scrimmage.
Case in point was one sequence in the third quarter.
Following a Ward 35-yard run, the Patriots almost erased that entire gain in about 25 seconds.
Actually, it was Falcone – who sacked the quarterback on back-to-back plays, each one for a 10-yard loss.
"I honestly don't think I ever had a sack in my life," he said. "It was unbelievable, actually. My coach was so happy for me. He was trying to get me a sack in the last four games. It finally happened. We played awesome. We did let it go a little bit in the second half, but we never gave up. They didn't quit and we didn't quit."
The stat line for Mike Barrett's defense was impressive.
A total of four sacks for 31 yards.
Four forced fumbles.
Only three Hazleton Area plays went for nine yards or more. In all, Jim Drumheller's offense racked up less than 200 yards – 126 of those in the final 12 minutes.
And one can't forget Haughton's fourth-quarter interception that gave the Patriots their first win over the Cougars in almost a decade.
"I'm actually happy with the way our defense has been playing all year," Barrett said. "We gave up too many big plays against Abington (Heights) and Scranton. Tonight, we just swarmed toward the ball. They did a nice job of moving the ball on us at the end. We are starting to play really well. This win didn't come easy. We have a young group of kids that's fighting and learning every single week. Our defense is playing very well. Up until the fourth quarter, I think we really limited them offensively. We were aggressive, flying to the ball."
A Justin Wilk 1-yard run, and James Emmett's 28-yard strike to Mike Chisdock gave Pittston Area a 12-0 lead. The Patriots increased it to 26-7 at the end of the third – thanks to Emmett's second TD pass, and a short jaunt by Marc Romanczuk, who finished with 96 yards on 16 carries.
But Hazleton Area (1-4), despite the mistakes, made it interesting.
PIT – Justin Wilk 1 run (kick blocked), 4:00
PIT – James Emmett 10 pass to Mike Chisdock (pass failed), 7:56
HAZ – Jeff Fendrick 1 run (Danny Mendoza kick), 1:31
PIT – Mark Romanczuk 15 run (Emmett pass to Joe Montini), 8:04
PIT – Emmett 28 pass to Joe Starinsky (kick blocked), 1:04
HAZ – Nick George 4 run (Julius Ward run), 11:05
HAZ – Ward 6 run (run failed), 8:36
|Team Statistics||Haz Area||Pitt Area|
RUSHING – HAZ: Nick George 7-30, Zach Zukoski 8-24, Jeff Fendrick 9-18, Julius Ward 7-9, Devion Barlow 1-(-4), Team 2-(-1); PIT: Mark Romanczuk 16-96, Justin Wilk 9-32, Kyle Gattuso 5-16, Joe Montini 1-4, James Emmett 4-(-6), Team 3-(-8), Brandon Lukachko 1-(-17)
PASSING – HAZ: Ward 8-14-1 93 yards, Jeff Ochs 1-1 25 yards; PIT: 5-11-1 80 yards.
RECEIVING – HAZ: Zack Kehler 2-36, Fendrick 2-21, Z. Zukoski 1-12, Barlow 1-6, Ochs 1-17, Glenn Zukoski 1-7, Danny Conahan 1-19; PIT: Joe Starinsky 4-70, Mike Chisdock 1-10
INTS – HAZ: Ochs; PIT: Anthony Haughton
MISSED FGS – None