Spar­tans edge Haven to re­main un­beaten

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - SUNDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK - BY CHUCK CUR­LEY STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: ccur­ley@re­pub­li­can­her­; 570-628-6019; @Chuck­Cur­ley on Twit­ter

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.”

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