HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Valley West Edges Hazleton Area
HAZLETON — Valley West’s Carson Canavan was a beast Friday night.
The junior running back rushed for 251 yards on 29 carries and scored on a 42-yard gallop, but his Spartans needed a blocked PAT from Nah-Syr Garner in the fourth quarter to preserve a 21-20 victory over Hazleton Area.
The win pushed the Spartans to 2-0 on the young season, while the Cougars dropped to 1-1.
Canavan’s big night was a huge part of Valley West’s 416-yard offensive output, as they dominated the line of scrimmage and took it to the smaller Cougar defense.
Afterward, he was weary, but all smiles.
“For as much as I ran the ball, I don’t know how I’m moving right now,” Canavan said. “I guess it’s just the offseason conditioning we did. It wins games. They were tired, we weren’t. That’s what won the game for us.
“I kept powering through, my line held up for me, and we just kept moving the ball with me. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”
“He’s a horse,” Valley West head coach Pat Keating said of his senior runner. “Him, combined with the way our offensive line played today, I thought it was fantastic.”
“That’s a veteran team on offense, 10 starters are seniors,” Keating said of the Cougar offense. “Wolk, Horton, Smith. They have weapons all over the place. We knew it was going to be this type of game.
“We wanted to grind it out and establish the line of scrimmage, and we were able to do that offensively. We were able to make enough plays defensively, and we did it all three phases of the game. I’m so proud of these guys.”
The Spartans were clinging to a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter when the Cougars drove 82 yards in 11 plays to pull close on Damon Horton’s 1-yard touchdown run with 6:18 to play.
But Garner broke through from the outside to block the PAT try, keeping the Spartans in front by one.
Valley West then turned to Canavan and its big offensive line to work the clock. A personal foul penalty on the Cougars, combined with seven Canavan rushes and some key runs from quarterback Jake Shusta, to keep the chains moving.
With 45 seconds left, Shusta’s quarterback sneak on fourth-and-one from the 3-yard line netted two yards, and the Spartans ran out the clock from there to post second straight win.
After the Cougars took the opening kickoff and drove inside the Spartan 20-yard line, Valley West stopped them on fourth down to take over at the 13. Valley West got on the board first, with Shusta’s 6-yard scoring run capping their 87-yard opening drive. The first of three Adam Sivak PATs made it 7-0 late in the opening quarter.
After an exchange of punts, the Cougars needed just two plays to reach paydirt. Sparky Wolk and Jacob Hunsinger hooked up on a 39-yard touchdown pass, and Will Barrientos toed the extra point to tie the game at 8:09 of the second quarter.
Valley West needed just 34 seconds to get the lead back, as Canavan took a first down carry up the middle and broke free for a 42-yard touchdown and a 14-7 Spartan lead.
The Spartans tried to add to that lead right before halftime, driving to the Cougar 7-yard line before a 24-yard field goal try came up short.
Hazleton Area took its first drive of the second half all the way to the Spartan 1-yard line, with Horton (25 carries, 141 yards) doing a lot of the damage. His seven-yard draw play got it to the 1, but a bad exchange resulted in a fumble that Valley West’s Jonathan Stochla pounced on.
Wolk got the ball back for the Cougars five plays later, recovering a fumble at the Valley West 22-yard line.
On the next play from scrimmage, Horton took a handoff and burst up the middle and into the end zone for a 22-yard score, tying the game at 14-all with 3:48 left in the third.
Early in the fourth, the Cougar defense appeared in good shape as Wolk’s punt rolled dead at the 12. However, Canavan broke off a 23-yard run on first play, and Shuster then found Nate Baranski all alone in the middle of the filed, hooking up on a 65-yard catch-and-run that put the Spartans back on top 21-14 with 11:18 to play, and setting the stage for the thrilling finish.
“They just flat-out mashed us up front,” Hazleton Area head coach Mike Brennan said.
Hazleton Area takes to the road next week for a game at Dallas, while Valley West is home with Crestwood.
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