Spartans edge Haven to remain unbeaten
SCHUYLKILL HAVEN—North Schuylkill senior Mitch Wagner had enough energy after Friday night’s football game to entertain the postgame huddle with a funny cheer.
But Wagner also was clearly fatigued after a busy night in which he led the unbeaten Spartans to an 18-17 victory over Schuylkill Haven.
“Four-and-0 going into a big rivalry game with Mount Carmel, so we keep it rolling, a lot of momentum,” Wagner said after rushing for 169 yards, including a 93-yard touchdown scamper in the opening period.
Because of that touchdown, Wagner also had to do hard work late in the game as North Schuylkill was trying to kill the clock with the lead.
After Schuylkill Haven missed a go-ahead field goal attempt with 4:54 left in the game, Wagner carried seven times, helping the Spartans to two first downs.
North Schuylkill was eventually forced to punt, but the Hurricanes got the ball at their 29-yard line with just 27 seconds left to get in position for a potential winning field goal.
Schuylkill Haven (0-4) managed just 13 yards on two pass completions in the remaining time.
“Schuylkill Haven’s a really good football team. We told our kids all week, ‘Right now, they’re 0-and-3, and it’s probably the best 0-and-3 team you’re probably going to play in the state,’ ” North Schuylkill head coach Wally Hall said.
The Hurricanes bore out Hall’s assessment with a two-touchdown, third-period burst that put them in front 17-12 midway through the period.
Then Schuylkill Haven’s Kobe Brish, who sparked the rally with 93 yards rushing in the period, was injured while on defense on the Spartans’ next drive.
Brish suffered a right leg injury as he fell trying to tackle the Spartans’ Scott Grigas after one of Grigas’ 13 pass receptions for 98 yards in the game.
The 24-yard play set up the Spartans at Schuylkill Haven’s 35. Five plays later, the Spartans’ Tyler Elsdon converted a third- and-1 with a 15-yard touchdown run for the 18-17 lead with 1:04 left in the third period.
Despite losing Brish, who finished with 116 yards rushing, Schuylkill Haven surged back behind Jake Luckenbill, who carried eight times on the next series. The Hurricanes also converted a fourth down on quarterback Josh Kalyan’s 7-yard sneak.
But the Spartans then forced fourth down at their 8-yard line. A bobbled hold of the center’s snap forced Gavin Evitts’ 25-yard, goahead field goal to veer right.
“We’ve got the best kicker in the area. We get a good snap there, that’s a chip shot, and who knows what happens from there?” Schuylkill Haven head coach Mike Farr said. “I’m happy with our effort, and we’re going to continue to get better every week.” North Schuylkill got off to a fast start. On its second series, quarterback Doug Weist, who completed 13-of-25 for 134 yards, found Grigas from 15 yards for a 6-0 lead.
The Spartans’ next series lasted just one play as Wagner circled right end and outran the defense on his 93-yard touchdown carry.
“The hole clogged up a little and I just bounced it out,” Wagner said. “It was open field.”
Evitts put the Hurricanes on the board with a 34-yard field goal on the first series of the second period to cut the deficit to 12-3.
The momentum stayed with Schuylkill Haven in the third period with back-to-back scoring drives capped by 4-yard touchdown runs by Luckenbill and Brish, respectively, for the 17-12 lead.
“We just wrote up what we saw and we started blocking the right people,” Farr said. “If we would have blocked the right people in the first half, that’s what you would have seen from the start of the game.”
After Brish’s score, Nor th Schuylkill responded with the 75-yard touchdown drive featuring the 24-yard pass play to Grigas and Elsdon’s go-ahead TD.
The Spartans held on after that for the win.
“We know we beat a good football team,” Hall said. “Being 4-and-0 is definitely a positive.”