Monday Morning Quarterback: Run Game Key For WVC Teams’ Success
It’s a common phrase among football coaches. Teams don’t run the ball to win, they win to run the ball.
Broken down, at the game’s highest level, it is a passing league. But at the high school level, it is the exact opposite. High school teams need to be able to run the football to be effective and have a chance to be successful.
Friday night is a prime example. In games involving Wyoming Valley Conference teams, four of them involved teams that attempted more than 20 passes in a game. Of those teams, just one, Hazleton Area, won its game. The Cougars attempted 28 passes, completed 19 of them and ended up finishing with a 34-32 win over Wallenpaupack.
Northwest attempted 25 passes and lost. Selinsgrove attempted 32 against Berwick and lost. Hanover Area attempted 33 against Meyers and lost.
Obviously, if teams fall behind early, they have no other choice but to throw the ball. But you can see the emphasis on establishing the run early and just how important a phase of the game it is.
On Saturday night, Pittston Area was heading down the same path. The Patriots only ran 16 plays in the first half against Coughlin. Of those plays, nine were pass attempts, three of them were completed passes, one went for a touchdown and one was intercepted. At the half, Pittston Area trailed 14-6.
In the second half, the Patriots attempted three passes, ran the ball 25 times and pulled out a 25-14 victory. At halftime, Pittston Area coach Nick Barbieri made it perfectly clear the Patriots were going to run the ball in the second half.
“I told the kids we are going to run the football,” Barbieri said. “It’s high school football. You have to run the ball, and it is something that we need to continue to do.”
More with less
Slowly but surely, we are starting to get a glimpse of just how explosive the Williamsport offense can be when the Millionaires are at full strength.
Aside from back-to-back losses — to Altoona, where the Millionaires were shut out, and managing just 17 points against a Berwick team that is one of the best in the conference — the Millionaires have rebounded nicely and scored 113 points in their last two games.
Sixty-four of them came in a win over Hazleton Area. Most recently, Williamsport outscored Crestwood, 49-26. What made the win over Crestwood impressive is that it ran just 37 offensive plays and trailed tremendously in the time of possession stat. Crestwood ran 58 plays on Friday, 54 of them rushing attempts.
Doing the best they can
Coughlin head coach Ciro Cinti knew this season was going to be a challenge. With a smaller-than-usual roster, the Crusaders faced an uphill battle from the time training camp began in August.
Depth is always an issue with the Crusaders, and this year is no different. And with this being the final year of Coughlin football, the season has not taken the shape that the players and coaches had hoped it would.
But one thing you have to do is give the kids on the field credit. Regardless of the score or opponent, this group plays 48 minutes of football.
The last two weeks, the Crusaders were close to picking up their first win of the season. Four of the five losses this year have come by a combined 21 points.
“They are so close that it hurts,” Cinti said. “We are losing by a couple points here and there. We are in the games but we just can’t seem to get over the hump. We are going to keep playing hard. We know the last five games are going to be a challenge.”
The Crusaders end the season with games against Dallas, Valley West, North Pocono, Hazleton Area and Berwick.
The 12th man
There was a bit of confusion in Saturday night’s Pittston Area at Coughlin game when Coughlin was forced to punt on its first series of the game.
Pittston Area had 12 men on the field at the time the ball was snapped and the punt was executed. The Patriots fielded the punt and returned it. Following the play, the officials issued a 15-yard penalty against the Patriots because all 12 players on the field participated in the play.
The end result was a first down for Coughlin 15 yards from the original line of scrimmage.
Hazleton Area kicker Wil Garcia kicked a pair of field goals against Wallenpaupack. That is nothing new considering Garcia has one of the better legs in the conference. The first kick came from 27 yards out. The second, which proved to be the game-winner was from 34 yards with 58.8 seconds left in the game.
While he has 19 extra points on the year, the field goals were his first two of the season.
Clearing the air
In the Valley West at Dallas game on Friday night, there was a bit of a mystery as to what was going on near the end of the first half.
Dallas completed a 30-yard pass play to the Valley West 10-yard line with 1:02 left in the half. On the next play, Dallas running back Lenny Kelley was dropped for a 3-yard loss. During the play, and before Kelley was brought to the ground, a whistle blew, but both teams continued on with the play and Kelley was finally tackled at the 13 with 48 seconds left.
Following a delay as the officials convened, the ball was set for play at the 15-yard line. The next two plays were incomplete passes attempted by Dallas, and then quarterback Michael Starbuck was dropped for a 3-yard loss.
The coaches on the Valley West side of the field were not made aware that after Kelley’s original carry on first down from the 10, an inadvertent whistle was called on the play. They were under the impression the first incomplete pass happened on second down.
At the end of it all, because of the inadvertent whistle, the first down was replayed, resulting in the first incomplete pass of the series. Dallas ended up using a fake field goal on fourth down to score a touchdown and take a 21-0 lead at the half.
Moving on up
With 265 yards passing on Friday night, Hazleton Area quarterback Sparky Wolk moved into sixth place on the all-time WVC passing list. Wolk now has 5,250 yards passing for his career. Next up on the passing list is former Nanticoke Area standout Gary Phillips. Phillips finished his career with the Trojans with 5,311 yards.
The all-time WVC passing leader is former Berwick great Ron Powlus, who ended his high school career with 7,342 yards. Williamsport quarterback Isiah Hankins holds the record for most passing touchdowns in a career with 64.
Inside the box
Don’t yet believe the Berwick defense is for real? Check out this number: Berwick’s run defense held Selinsgrove to minus-58 yards rushing in a 21-7 Berwick victory.
The Dawgs are averaging a conference-best 47.8 yards per game on the ground. Berwick will be tested this week as it returns home for the first time since Week 2 and hosts Valley View.
Get there early
There are some pretty big games this week as far as teams from the WVC are concerned. Valley West is hosting Wallenpaupack in a game that has Class 5A postseason implications. Coughlin is at Dallas in a rematch of last year’s district playoff first-round matchup won by Coughlin in an upset. Valley View at Berwick is a battle of unbeatens in Class 4A, and GAR at Meyers is always entertaining.
But if you are looking for something to do on Friday, head to Lake-Lehman. That is where the Black Knights will be hosting Wyoming Area.
Wyoming Area comes into the game at 5-0, while Lake-Lehman is 4-1 and on a four-game winning streak after dropping its first game of the year.
Walk this way
If you happen to check out the 2018 Penn State football roster, another former WVC player has cracked the list. Lake-Lehman grad Kaleb Konigus has made the roster as a walk-on offensive lineman. Konigus, a freshman, joins former high school teammates Connor McGovern and Nick Eury. McGovern is the starting right guard for the Nittany Lions, while Eury is a running back. Konigus has been assigned jersey No. 59.