NANTICOKE — With a chill in the air, Nanticoke heated up right in time for an epic finale.
In a fierce defensive battle, the Trojans upended visiting Coughlin by the narrowest of margins on Friday, winning 7-6.
Nanticoke was held to only 91 yards of total offense, as the Trojans could only muster 12 yards through the air and eight first downs during the contest.
But the Trojans shook off an early Crusaders touchdown and proved to be a resilient bunch on both sides of the ball as they bent but never broke to allow any more points from Coughlin.
As the game entered the fourth quarter, the Trojans found themselves down by only 6-0 despite their struggles on offense throughout the night. Their fortunes would change when speedy junior receiver, Keanu Ammons, had a huge punt return to the 35-yard line of Coughlin late in the game.
That big play provided the key turning point to spark Nanticoke’s momentum on offense, as with only 4:59 left in the regulation, Ammons would finish the scoring drive that he helped start, as he took the reverse hand off down the sidelines for an electrifying game winning 13-yard touchdown run.
A successful extra point proved to be the difference, delivering a 7-6 lead Nanticoke would not relinquish even with numerous close shots down the field by Coughlin’s offense late in the game to try to regain the lead.
Nanticoke coach Ron Bruza was impressed with his team’s determination to never get down even while overcoming some significant struggles.
“Close games give yourselves the self-confidence that when things get close, you can lean on your guys,” Bruza said. “You just need that one spark, that one big play. I’m on the sidelines saying who’s going to make that play. Plus our defense really showed up tonight.”
Coughlin had struck early in the game for an early 6-0 lead just a little over three minutes into the opening quarter. Junior quarterback Garrett Wardle connected with fellow junior Rafael McCoy, who broke wide open down the field on a 70-yard touchdown pass.
But a mishandled snap on the extra point attempt forced Coughlin to heave up a two-point conversion pass which fell incomplete. Little did the Crusaders know at the time that the missed opportunity would cost them the game.
Coughlin’s offense actually fared better than the victorious Trojans, as the Crusaders racked up 268 yards of total offense, with a balanced attack of 137 yards on the ground and 131 through the air.
Wardle completed six of his 16 pass attempts for 131-yards to go along with his long touchdown pass and one interception by Nanticoke’s Darren Boseman.
McCoy ran for 39 yards on nine carries, keeping Nanticoke’s defense off-balance the majority of the game with his quick rushes out of the wildcat off of direct snaps. He finished with three receptions on the night for a game high 106 yards.
Now at 2-1, the Trojans will look to make it three wins in a row when they travel next Friday night to take on Wyoming Area. Meanwhile, the 0-3 Crusaders will look to capture their first win of the season when they travel to take on Tunkhannock.
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