Hazleton Area falls again at Delaware Val­ley in 6A fi­nal


MIL­FORD For the sec­ond year in a row, Hazleton Area came here in Week 12 look­ing to bring home a cham­pi­onship tro­phy.

For the sec­ond straight sea­son, Delaware Val­ley sent the Cougars home to the off-sea­son with­out it.

The de­fend­ing cham­pion and top-seeded War­riors pounded the Cougars with their me­thod­i­cal run game, mixed in sev­eral big plays from the arm and legs of ju­nior quar­ter­back Zach Scil­lia, and pulled away to a 35-14 vic­tory Satur­day af­ter­noon.

Delaware Val­ley (9-3) is now headed back to the PIAA Class 6A Tour­na­ment af­ter claim­ing its sec­ond straight Dis­trict 2-4 Subre­gional fi­nal over the sec­ond-seeded Cougars (6-6). The War­riors face State Col­lege next week­end.

The win was the War­riors’ sev­enth in a row this sea­son -- and 11th straight against Hazleton Area dat­ing back to 2010, fol­low­ing the last of the Cougars’ five Dis­trict 2 cham­pi­onships.

DV head coach Keith Ol­som­mer dis­missed the no­tion that his team has some sort of mas­tery over the Cougars.

“I don’t know if it’s any­thing like that. It’s a big game, our kids know it’s a big game, and the kids have risen to the oc­ca­sion and played well against them,” Ol­som­mer said.

“It’s nice that your kids can step up. Some­times they don’t, but our kids did to­day.”

That wasn’t the case for the Cougars, who saw their own four-game win streak and ti­tle dreams come to a sud­den halt in the bit­ter cold of Mil­ford for a sec­ond straight sea­son.

“We got the ball in the red zone twice and came away with no points,” said Hazleton Area head coach Mike Bren­nan. “We didn’t play our best game, and clearly we didn’t de­serve to win the game.”

The War­riors used a big play to break the ice just 4:33 into the con­test. Fac­ing a fourth-and-one at the Cougar 41, they called on No. 41. Se­nior run­ning back Colin Wal­ters caught a roll-out pass from Scil­lia in the flat, broke a tackle and went the dis­tance for a 41-yard scor­ing play and the early lead.

The high-pow­ered Cougar of­fense an­swered de­ci­sively, driv­ing 71 yards in 10 plays to make it a tie game once again.

A 23-yard pickup by quar­ter­back Spark Wolk, and a pair of com­ple­tions to David Smith keyed the march, and Da­mon Hor­ton capped it with a 13-yard touch­down run. Wil Gar­cia’s PAT knot­ted the game at 7 late in the first quar­ter.

Josh Bal­car­cel, who led all ball­car­ri­ers with 161 yards, re­turned the en­su­ing kick­off all the way to the Hazleton Area 40, and the War­riors needed just six plays to re­gain the lead.

A 29-yard pass from Scil­lia to Hunter Klein set up Scil­lia’s first touch­down run, a 5-yard boot­leg on the sec­ond play of the sec­ond quar­ter.

“When we looked back over the past sev­eral years of play­ing these guys, their D-ends do a great job of run­ning the play down from be­hind,” Ol­som­mer said, ex­plain­ing the boot­leg play Scil­lia ran to per­fec­tion sev­eral times Satur­day. “Zach can run the ball a lit­tle bit, and made some nice plays withit.”

Hazleton Area ap­peared poised to an­swer the score, driv­ing all the way to the DV 8-yard line on its next pos­ses­sion. Hor­ton (16 car­ries, 148 yards) broke off a 30-yard run and Wolk took an op­tion keep 12 yards on back-to­back plays, but the drive bogged down there.

On third-and-seven from the 8, Wolk was sacked from be­hind by Klein, and Gar­cia’s 30-yard field goal try was just wide right, keeping the score 14-7.

The Cougar de­fense came up big on the next se­ries, when Smith stepped in front of a Scil­lia pass near the end zone for the pick.

Hor­ton broke four tack­les on an­other 30-yard pickup on first down, but three plays later and fac­ing fourth-and-five at the mid­field stripe, they lined up to punt, then opted to gam­ble. The War­riors were read for a direct snap to Hor­ton, who was swarmed un­der for no gain.

“We tried that fake punt to try to get some­thing go­ing, in­stead of giv­ing the ball back to our de­fense,” Bren­nan said. “You think putting the ball in Da­mon Hor­ton’s hands is a good thing, and that back­fired on us at the end of the half.”

The War­riors took over at the 50 with 2:52 left in the half, and made the Cougars pay for that gam­ble.

Bal­car­cel’s 12-yard pickup, and a Scil­lia 19-yarder to Klein moved the chains twice, and a 15-yard face­mask call on the Cougars on a third-down play kept the drive mov­ing.

On sec­ond-and-goal from the 3, Bal­car­cel burst through a huge hole to score with three sec­onds re­main­ing. It gave his team a two- touch­down lead and plenty of steam head­ing to the locker room.

With the ball to start the sec­ond half, Delaware Val­ley took com­plete con­trol with a 10-play, 4 1/2-minute scor­ing drive fea­tur­ing the run­ning of Bal­car­cel and a 21-yard pass from Scil­lia to Ja­won Foushee. Bal­car­cel’s sec­ond touch­down, a 13-yarder, upped the lead to 28-7.

The Cougars wouldn’t fold, as a pair of Wolk-to-Ja­cob Hun­singer com­ple­tions cov­er­ing 36 yards set the ta­ble for Wolk’s 14-yard touch­down pass to Smith. In less than two min­utes, Hazleton Area was back in the game at 28-14.

The de­fense got Delaware Val­ley to punt on its next two pos­ses­sions, and the Cougars threat­ened to make it a one­touch­down game when Hor­ton broke loose on a 45-yard dash down the side­line that set up his team at the DV 24-yard line early in the fourth quar­ter.

How­ever, on the next play, Wolk threw to the end zone for Smith, but Scil­lia was there to pick it off and keep his team in charge.

Delaware Val­ley be­gan work­ing the clock from there, march­ing 80 yards in 15 time­con­sum­ing plays that ended with an­other Scil­lia boot­leg, a four-yard scor­ing run that made it 35-14 and un­der five min­utes to play.

Run­ning off 61 plays to the Cougars’ 42, the War­riors were able to con­trol clock and tempo, and keep Hazleton Area’s ex­plo­sive of­fense watch­ing for long stretches.

“Our big­ger fear was for Hor­ton to get the ball,” Ol­som­mer said, re­veal­ing the game play. “The best way to stop him from get­ting the ball is by keeping him (on the side­line). We wanted long, sus­tained drives and we were able to do that. We had (two long drives) in the sec­ond half, and that’s the best de­fense against him, be­cause any­time he touches it he’s a threat to go.”

Bren­nan said the War­riors’ abil­ity to con­trol the clock with their of­fense was a huge key.

“That’s their deal,” he said. “They drive pa­tiently, they run their power, their mis­di­rec­tion, their wag­gle stuff off that to keep you off bal­ance. They do what they do well, and so con­grat­u­la­tions to them. “

The Cougars went fourand-out on their fi­nal pos­ses­sion, and the War­riors ran out the clock for their sec­ond con­sec­u­tive dis­trict crown.

“We were 2-3 at one point. To be here at 9-3, it’s a pretty spe­cial day,” Ol­som­mer said. “I didn’t thing we’d win an­other game when we were 2-3. Sure enough we haven’t lost since.

“We’ve come a long way. We’re a sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter foot­ball team at this point then when we saw them ear­lier in the sea­son ,” he added. “We’ve got­ten a lit­tle bit health­ier, es­pe­cially up front. Some of our guys are a lit­tle more ex­pe­ri­enced now and made some big plays for us.”

It was an emo­tional postgame for Bren­nan and the Cougars, who say good­bye to a num­ber of spe­cial se­niors, in­clud­ing the pro­gram’s all­time pass­ing leader (Wolk), one of its finest run­ning backs (Hor­ton), and two of its top re­ceivers (Smith, Hun­singer). The se­nior class helped get the team play­off wins each of the past two sea­sons, and back-to-back cham­pi­onship-game ap­pear­ances.

“I feel bad for our se­niors, that we weren’t able to give them more,” Bren­nan said. “They gave us a lot, a lot for this pro­gram. This was an im­por­tant game for those guys, and I feel bad for them that we fell short of our goal.”

Hazleton Area’s Dal­las Solomon (39) brings down Delaware Val­ley’s Zach Scil­lia af­ter the War­riors quar­ter­back scram­bles for a short gain dur­ing the Dis­trict 2/4 Class 6A Subre­gional cham­pi­onship game on Satur­day in Mil­ford. The Cougars’ Kevin Meluskey (42) and Bryce Reed (51) and Delaware Val­ley’s Aaron Loihle (71) and Josh Bal­car­cel (2) also are pic­tured. The War­riors won 35-14.

Delaware Val­ley’s Ja­won Foushe wres­tles Hazleton Area’s David Smith to the turf af­ter Smith in­ter­cepted a pass dur­ing the Dis­trict 2/4 Subre­gional Class 6A cham­pi­onship game on Satur­day in Mil­ford. Delaware Val­ley kept the ti­tle with a 35-14 vic­tory.

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