YATESVILLE – The buses won't be going anywhere soon thanks to the driving force behind Wyoming Area.
Senior Nick O'Brien intercepted a pass in the end zone with 37.9 seconds, preserving Wyoming Area's 27-20 victory over rival Pittston Area in a Wyoming Valley Conference interdivisional game Friday night.
Wyoming Area (8-2) clinched the top seed in the District 2 Class 2A playoffs – and home field advantage throughout – with the victory. The Warriors also won the WVC Division 2A-A title.
It's good to be home, Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer said. We have a special feeling when we're at home. For these seniors, the special thing is our alumni keep saying ‘One more game, one more home game at our place.'
It looked good as Wyoming Area took a 21-7 lead into halftime on O'Brien's 51-yard punt return for a touchdown. He was sprung on his third punt return TD of the season when teammates Cody Schmitz and Dylan Pegg wiped out two Patriots as he caught the ball.
It still looked good when defensive lineman Joe Taylor busted through the middle of the line to block a Pittston Area extra point to preserved Wyoming Area's 21-20 lead with 11:03 left in the fourth quarter. Pittston Area moved within a point on a 70-yard interception return by Joe Starinsky.
And it looked good when O'Brien, who was named the MVP of the game between the rivals, scored on a 27-yard run for a 27-20 advantage with 1:35 to play.
Then things got very precarious for the Warriors.
Pittston Area (3-7) had 59 yards and no timeouts as it tried to drive for the potential tying score. After a short gain, quarterback James Emmett connected on a 25-yard pass to Starinsky to move the ball to the Wyoming Area 24-yard line. After three consecutive incompletions, the duo hooked up on a 15-yard pass on fourth down, giving Pittston Area the ball at the 9 with 47 seconds left.
After a spike and an incompletion, Emmett tried to rifle a pass to the middle of the end zone to receiver Jordan Houseman, but O'Brien got there first for his third interception of the season.
I just dropped into coverage, O'Brien said. Honestly, I didn't even see the quarterback. I just saw the ball go up, grabbed it and sealed the victory (by) going down in the end zone.
The loss was another heartbreaker for the Patriots, who lost three home games by a combined 12 points.
I thought James did an excellent job working the clock there, Pittston Area coach Mike Barrett said. He hurried the kids to the ball. He threw a great game. They played the coverage well that last play, but you can't ask more from him.
Pittston Area drove deep into Wyoming Area territory on its previous possession, but a fourth-and-1 run was stuffed by Wyoming Area's Trent Grove and Alex Gercak at the Warriors 24.
Wyoming Area 27, Pittston Area 20
WA – Nick O'Brien 1 run (kick failed), 5:55
WA – Cody Schmitz 27 pass from O'Brien (Schmitz run), 11:52
PA – Justin Wilk 1 run (R.J. Haas kick), 9:08
WA – O'Brien 51 punt return (A.J. Lenkaitis kick), 6:01
PA – Hassan Maxwell 1 run (Haas kick), 0:37
PA – Joe Starinsky 70 interception return (kick blocked), 11:03
WA – O'Brien 27 run (run failed), 1:35
|Team Statistics||Wyo Area||Pitt Area|
RUSHING – Wyo. Area, O'Brien 22-154, Schmitz 5-15, Zak Lanunziata 11-52, Jeff Skursky 4-30, team 3-(minus-13). Pittston Area, Maxwell 3-8, Wilk 13-35, Mark Romanczuk 6-15, Kyle Gattuso 12-53, James Emmett 2-(minus-1).
PASSING – Wyo. Area, O'Brien 3-6-1-79. Pittston Area, Emmett 8-21-1-126, Gattuso 1-2-0-30. team 0-4-0-0.
RECEIVING – Wyo. Area, Jordan Zezza 1-42, Schmitz 1-27, Farrad Condry 1-10. Pittston Area, Mike Chisdock 2-40, Starinsky 6-110, Jordan Houseman 1-6.
INTS – Wyo. Area, O'Brien 1-0. Pittston Area, Starinsky 1-70.
MISSED FGS – none.