Garcia Wins It For Hazleton Area
HAWLEY — Trailing Wallenpaupack 32-31 with five minutes to play, and facing the prospects of a third one-point loss in four weeks, it was crunch time for Hazleton Area’s football team.
So the Cougars looked to senior leaders like Sparky Wolk, Jacob Hunsinger and Wil Garcia to turn their season around.
After Hunsinger’s 42-yard kickoff return, Wolk calmly led the Cougar offense into range, and Garcia nailed a 34-yard field goal with 58 seconds to play to put his team ahead to stay.
Thirty seconds later, Wolk intercepted a Buckhorn pass near midfield to clinch the 34-32 victory and end the Cougars’ three-game slide.
Wolk completed 20-of-29 passes for 269 yards, with Hunsinger on the receiving end of 11 of those passes for 188 yards.
Their 74-yard touchdown pass helped push the Cougars lead to 21-7 with 3:47 left in the opening half, and Garcia’s 27-yard field goal with 44 seconds remaining made it 24-7 at intermission.
Wolk’s 1-yard scoring plunge, and Damon Horton’s 42-yard touchdown run staked the Cougars (2-3) to a 14-0 advantage by early in the second quarter.
Wallenpaupack scored on a Nicholas Ruggieri 10-yard run for its only first-half points.
But when a Cougar third-quarter punt snap sailed over Wolk’s head and out of the end zone for a safety, the momentum began to swing to the Buckhorns.
They took the ensuing free kick and drove 46 yards — the final 38 on Exzavier Warner’s 38-yard scoring jaunt — and tacked on a Manny Obeng 2-point run to pull within 24-17 midway through the third.
Horton (15 carries, 85 yards) broke off a 32-yard run to set up his second touchdown of the night, an 8-yarder that made it 31-17, Cougars.
But the Buckhorns wouldn’t go away, getting a 6-yard scoring run from Obeng, and a 5-yarder from Ruggieri to pull within a point with five minutes to play.
Ruggieri then crashed through the line for the 2-point conversion run, giving Wallenpaupack its first lead (32-31), and setting the stage for the Cougars’ late-game heroics.
Hazleton Area will be back on the road next Friday for a visit to Delaware Valley.
Wallenpaupack (2-3) will head to Wyoming Valley West.
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