Saucon Valley Comes Up “Special” With Win Over Tide
By Brian Ptashinski @BPtashinski on Twitter
POTTSVILLE- Friday night’s game at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium, with two evenly matched teams, called for special team’s play to decide the victor. Saucon Valley used great field position all night on returns and a blocked punt to propel the Panthers to a hard fought 27-26 win over Pottsville to advance to the district 4A title game next week against Bethlehem Catholic, a 39-33 winner over Allentown Central Catholic Friday night.
Pottsville started off like a house on fire, rolling out to a 12-0 lead, with scores by Mike Botto on a 20-yard pass from Eric Wapinsky on the opening drive. After a Panther fumble on their 43, Wapinsky connected with Kory Kleckner with a nine-yard pass, but both times Pottsville missed the PAT. The Tide were on the move again late in the first quarter, after a 50-yard run by Darion Jacoby set his team up at the Panther 35, but they would turn the ball over on fourth down.
Saucon Valley then went on a nine-play drive culminating in a two-yard run by Nate Kehs, but the extra point was missed as well making the score 12-6 with about seven minutes left in the half. Pottsville had an answer for that score as Wapinsky hit Jacoby with a perfectly timed screen pass. This led to a 71-yard gain setting the Tide up at the Panther 8. Wapinsky called his own number and took it in for an eight-yard run. The PAT was missed again which left the score at 18-6 at intermission.
The second half started with Saucon Valley on their 31. Seven plays later they were in the end zone with a Zach Petiet 13-yard run. Josh Snead connected on the PAT making the score 18-13. Saucon would take the lead, when Christian Alling blocked a Tide punt and Patrick Morrisey recovered the loose ball in the end zone. Snead made the extra point giving the visitors their first lead at 20-18 with 7:03 left in the third quarter.
Pottsville bounced right back with an 11-play, 65-yard drive with a 21-yard run by Jacoby and a two-point conversion pass from Wapinsky to Ian Renniger to make the score 26-20.
The Tide could not hold the lead long as the front line of the Panthers took over the game. A three-play drive led by a 41-yard run by Petiet and a 19-yard pass from Brandon Holub to Abe Lugo was finished off as Kehs took it in from three yards out. Snead’s PAT made it 27-26 with 2:41 left in the third quarter.
Pottsville had several chances to regain the lead, but could not penetrate the Panther defense as the Tide could only muster 33 yards on their final few possessions of the contest.
“Momentum really shifted after that punt block,” said Saucon Valley coach Phillip Sams. “We didn’t play our best in the first half. They took it to us early. It was disheartening,” he added.
Saucon Valley ended up with 281 yards rushing on 44 tallies, led by Petiet, who finished with 164 yards and Kehs rushed for 102 yards on just 17 carries.
Pottsville coach Tom McGeoy said, “We made a few more mistakes than they did on special teams play. We gave up a blocked punt and we missed a few extra points. That was the difference in the game.”
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