KINGSTON — Nearly 100 points scored. Nearly 1,000 yards gained. And yet here was Wyoming Valley West’s defense, somehow stealing a share of the spotlight.
Most will remember that the Spartans scored eight touchdowns to outlast Bethlehem Liberty 55-35 in Friday’s District 2/4-11 Class 4A semifinal. But it wouldn’t have happened with the defense forcing six turnovers, never allowing the Hurricanes to rally.
“Absolutely,” Spartans coach Pat Keating said. “You saw for yourself how talented this (Liberty) group is. They’re athletic and they can beat you in so many ways. Hey, we gave up our yards in situations, but we made plays when we had to. We got ourselves off the field. And thankfully our offense was able to continue to score.”
And score they did. The Spartans (12-0) broke things open with four touchdowns in the second quarter for a 42-21 halftime lead and never looked back.
Now they’ve made a piece of history, matching the school record for wins in a season with a chance to win a subregional championship when they host District 11 behemoth Parkland next week.
“We knew it was going to be a slugfest,” Keating said. “It’s a tribute to these kids. Whether it’s a defensive struggle or an offensive struggle … with ups and downs, we just have to have more ups than they do. Just stick together and keep fighting.”
Sean Judge was all over the field as usual as the senior racked up 234 yards of total offense, found the end zone four times (three rushing, one receiving) and came up with one of the Spartans’ four interceptions for good measure.
Aaron Austin threw for 243 yards and three scores on 14 of 19 passing for good measure and picked off his Liberty counterpart Doug Erney twice.
“It just kept clicking and clicking and clicking,” Austin said. “We got more confidence every time we came up with the ball.”
“Heck of a job by Aaron Austin tonight,” Keating said. “That’s as big a game as you could have in a state playoff game, coming out and playing the way he did.”
Bill Davison had an interception at the end of the first half and also scored. Devon Weidman ran for one touchdown and caught another as the Spartans topped 100 points in their first two postseason games. Tight end L.J Wesneski also had a touchdown grab.
The Hurricanes (8-4) made the trip up the turnpike on a high, having smashed Stroudsburg 44-0 in last week’s quarterfinals. And tailback Gunner Anglovich hammered Valley West for nearly 300 yards on the ground himself, scoring three touchdowns.
But the turnovers killed Liberty’s chances. Just when the Hurricanes looked to have swung momentum late in the second quarter, scooping up a muffed punt and then scoring on the next play, the Spartans countered with a quick touchdown of their own and forced a fumble on the next play from scrimmage.
“You can’t make that many turnovers against a good team,” Liberty coach John Truby said. “They’re a good offense. We just didn’t do enough to get points on the board. Thought it was going to have to be a shootout. We just didn’t get the job done.
“They have so many weapons. (Judge, Weidman and Austin) are just very good. You’re not gonna stop them.”
Keating credited a defensive switch for helping confuse the Hurricanes after the teams finished the first four possessions of the game tied at 14-14.
“We started mixing up coverages,” Keating said. “We’ve been a man team all year, so we started to play a lot of different zones and throw some different looks at them. Thankfully we were able to come up with plays.”
They’ll have to do it again next week against the Trojans (11-1), whose only loss came to this same Liberty team last month.
Valley West is the first WVC team in eight years to reach the 4A subregional final, where Hazleton Area lost to — yup, Parkland — on a last-second blocked field goal back in 2007.
The opportunity is there.
“Unbelievable,” Keating said. “It’s something we talked about. I’ve been saying how great this group is and how resilient a group it is. They just keep fighting.
“We said it last week — the road’s not gonna get any easier. It’s not gonna get any easier with Parkland next week. We’re just gonna enjoy this, enjoy where we’re at and try to do our best to put together another gameplan here and host a Thanksgiving weekend state playoff game.”
D2/4-11 4A Semifinal
Valley West 55, Liberty 35
Wyo. Valley West`14`28`7`6`—`55
WVW — Sean Judge 29 pass from Aaron Austin (Jake Gurtis kick), 8:23
LIB — Gunner Anglovich 26 run (Tyler Reiman kick), 7:08
WVW — Judge 3 run (Gurtis kick), 2:43
LIB — Darian Street 20 pass from Doug Erney (Reiman kick), 1:38
WVW — Judge 2 run (Gurtis kick), 10:45
WVW — Devon Weidman 16 run (Gurtis kick), 8:23
LIB — Anglovich 38 run (Reiman kick), 2:22
WVW — Bill Davison 1 run (Gurtis kick), 1:32
WVW — Weidman 37 pass from Austin (Gurtis kick), 0:49
LIB — Anglovich 3 run (Reiman kick), 11:11
WVW — L.J. Wesneski 15 pass from Austin (Gurtis kick), 8:32
LIB — Justin Haynes 11 pass from Erney (Reiman kick), 5:01
WVW — Judge 29 run (kick failed), 9:56
RUSHING — LIB, Gunner Anglovich 28-293, Doug Erney 5-32, Nasir Legree 4-26. WVW, Sean Judge 23-112, Aaron Austin 12-72, Bill Davison 9-31, Devon Weidman 2-18, TEAM 1-(minus-2), Chris Melovitz 1-(minus-3).
PASSING — LIB, Erney 11-22-4-163. WVW, Austin 14-19-1-243, L.J. Wesneski 0-1-0-0, Judge 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — LIB, Victor Santiago 4-86, Justin Haynes 4-37, Darian Street 3-40. WVW, Judge 5-122, Wesneski 4-55, Weidman 4-55, Davison 1-11.
INTERCEPTIONS — LIB, Joey Curzi. WVW, Austin 2, Judge, Davison.
MISSED FGs — None.