UPDATE: The team will gather at the Midway Shopping Center on Wyoming Avenue at 5:30 p.m. for a victory parade to the stadium.
HERSHEY – Wyoming Area wiped out a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit and 22 years of history.
With Dominic DeLuca leading the way, the Warriors rallied to give District 2 its first state football champion since 1997 with a 21-14 victory over Central Valley in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 3A championship game at Hersheypark Stadium.
The state team title is the first for Wyoming Area in any sport.
DeLuca hit three different receivers for a pair of touchdown passes and another completion to the 1-yard line to set up his game- and state-title winning touchdown with 41 seconds remaining.
There was a moment when the comeback seemed to go from improbable to impossible.
DeLuca limped off the field with an apparent right knee injury with 7 ½ minutes left in the third quarter.
In the one offensive play DeLuca missed, Wyoming Area turned the ball over on an interception.
DeLuca returned on defense, but visibly limped through the remainder of the third quarter and on a rollout on the first play of the fourth quarter.
As he eluded two pass rushers on the next play, DeLuca started one of the most dramatic comebacks in PIAA championship history.
Riley Rusyn provided a lot of help.
As DeLuca’s pass floated up the right hashmark toward tight end Derek Ambrosino, Rusyn came racing from left to right, in front of his teammate to pull in the pass and break into the clear on an 80-yard touchdown with 11:39 remaining.
Momentum turned from there and DeLuca, whose biggest contribution to that point was being in on 10 tackles to lead the Wyoming Area defense, proceeded to throw for 155 of his 209 yards in the fourth quarter.
F.J. Braccini’s fourth-and-two stop got the ball back.
After DeLuca passed 32 yards to Brian Williams to the 8, a third-down loss left Wyoming Area with fourth-and-goal from the 4.
The Warriors burned their last timeout, then tied the game with 4:02 left.
Lining up with a power-I to the right, the Warriors faked off right tackle while Ambrosino slipped across the field from right tight end into a spot wide open in the left side of the end zone. DeLuca found him with the 4-yard touchdown and Josh Cumbo added the tying kick.
Caleb Graham batted down a third-down pass with two minutes left and Central Valley’s punt traveled just eight yards.
The short punt, coupled with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Central Valley put Wyoming Area 43 yards away with 1:43 remaining.
On second down, DeLuca found Williams behind the defense for 39 yards to the 1. Officials ruled Williams short of the touchdown, but DeLuca stepped in off the left side on the next play.
The Wyoming Area defense needed one more stop on fourth-and-one.
Drew Mruk, the freshman brother of tailback/linebacker Corey Mruk who was lost for the year early in the season, joined Graham and Leo Haros to stop receiver Jawon Hall just short of the chains.
One kneel down and Wyoming Area had the first District 2 state championship since Berwick won its sixth title in Class 3A in 1997.
In between District 2 teams had lost seven times in the final, including Thursday night when Thomas Jefferson, which had handed Central Valley its only previous loss, defeated Dallas, 46-7, in Class 4A.
Central Valley followed up its late score in the first half by opening the second half with a touchdown 2:20 in on a 2-yard Stephon Hall touchdown.
The first half was a defensive struggle.
The game remained scoreless until 1:25 left in the second quarter when Jaylen Guy’s 1-yard touchdown run gave Central Valley the 7-0 halftime lead.
The teams combined for just 131 yards on 49 plays, an average of 2.7 per play.
Guy accounted for all but three of Central Valley’s first-half yards with 67 yards rushing on 13 carries and a 24-yard reception.
In addition to the stingy defense, the offenses ran into their own problems with penalties and trouble holding onto the ball.
Officially, each team fumbled twice in the first half, but Wyoming Area also failed to cover a kickoff, had another possible fumble ruled to have come after the whistle and had another negated by a penalty.
Central Valley started the game at the Wyoming Area 30 when Wyoming Area failed to handle the kickoff.
Defensive plays by Nikolas Elko, Derek Ambrosino, DeLuca and Dillon Williams combined with a penalty to keep Central Valley from scoring.
Central Valley got as close as the 16 on its second possession, but a fourth-and-one penalty from there was followed by DeLuca’s end-zone interception.
Wyoming Area then picked up their first two first downs before having a third one wiped out by penalty.
That possession did manage to swing field position for Wyoming Area until late in the half.
Wyoming Area got as close as the 22 in the second quarter but a dropped pitch caused an 11-yard loss and essentially ended that threat.
After beginning drives at midfield and the Central Valley 44, Wyoming Area lost 10 yards to a sack and 10 more to a penalty.
That was followed by a short punt into the wind, setting up Central Valley at the Wyoming Area 48.
Guy had seven of the eight carries, including the touchdown, as the District 7 champions drove to break the scoreless tie before halftime.
Wyoming Area quarterback Dominic DeLuca holds a Hershey bar and jestures the Wyoming Area number one status after defeating the Tamaqua Blue Raiders 21-0 at Wyoming Valley West Spartan Stadium in Kingston last week. On Saturday, with DeLuca leading the way, the Warriors rallied to give District 2 its first state football champion since 1997 with a 21-14 victory over Central Valley in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 3A championship game at Hersheypark Stadium.