Le­high­ton nips North Schuylkill

in­di­ans: Le­high­ton nips North Schuylkill

The Republican Herald - - SPORTS - BY CHAR­LIE ROTH STAFF WRITER

FOUN­TAIN SPRINGS — Tom McCar­roll didn’t ex­pect it to be easy when his un­beaten Le­high­ton In­di­ans vis­ited sim­i­larly un­beaten North Schuylkill on Fri­day night in the Schuylkill League Di­vi­sion I league opener for both teams. It wasn’t. Even with the Spar­tans play­ing with­out their rush­ing leader, Mitch Wag­ner, who was nicked up dur­ing prac­tice this week, it wasn’t easy.

Even when the Spar­tans lost start­ing cen­ter Aaron Bolin­sky, the keystone to their of­fen­sive line, to an an­kle in­jury in the first half, it wasn’t easy.

McCar­roll’s In­di­ans, with quar­ter­back Cody Scherer lead­ing the charge, gut­ted it out to the fi­nal sec­onds in hold­ing off a valiant Spar­tans come­back at­tempt to walk off Ghosh Orthodon­tics Field at Spar­tan Sta­dium with a 22-14 vic­tory and their un­beaten record in­tact.

Scherer passed for 117 yards and a pair of scores to wide­out Zack Crum and rushed for 123 yards

and a 74-yard, third-quar­ter touch­down as the In­di­ans’ dif­fer­ence maker. Ev­ery bit of it was needed. “This re­ally is a great win for us,” McCar­roll said. “And give a ton of credit to North Schuylkill.

“They’re a well-coached team and I have noth­ing but re­spect for them.”

With Wag­ner, who through the first five weeks rushed for 660 yards and eight touch­downs on 113 rushes, on the side­lines in street clothes, the bulk of the ball-car­ry­ing du­ties were en­trusted to Zack Chowan­sky.

The sopho­more, who also plays line­backer, re­sponded in a big way, grind­ing out 115 yards on 27 tough car­ries and giv­ing the Spar­tans an early 6-0 lead with a 2-yard touch­down run at the 10:13 mark of the sec­ond quar­ter.

“Mitch (Wag­ner) was hurt at prac­tice this week,” North Schuylkill coach Wally Hall said. “It changes things for us.

“Mitch is an ob­vi­ous threat for us, but Chowan­sky did a nice job run­ning the foot­ball.”

Le­high­ton got the game’s next three scores, Scherer’s 25-yard pass to Crum in the sec­ond quar­ter, his 74-yard run late in the third and his 63-yarder to Crum mid­way through the fourth.

At the 7:18 mark of the fourth quar­ter, the In­di­ans had a seem­ingly com­fort­able 22-6 lead.

Then things got in­ter­est­ing.

A 20-yard kick­off re­turn by Scott Gri­gas put North Schuylkill in busi­ness at its own 36 with just sec­onds over 7 min­utes re­main­ing.

Spar­tans quar­ter­back Doug Weist went to work.

An 11-yard com­ple­tion fol­low­ing two in­com­ple­tions earned a first down at the North Schuylkill 47. Two more in­com­ple­tions, fol­lowed by a 6-yarder to Bran­don Rock­well left the Spar­tans fac­ing a fourth-and-4 with 6:07 re­main­ing.

This time, Weist con­nected with Keith Stavin­ski for a first down at the Le­high­ton 40. Two more com­ple­tions, the sec­ond one a 12-yarder to Stavin­ski, earned an­other first down at the 26.

A hold­ing penalty, one of eight called against both teams com­bined, moved the ball back to the 39. Two more com­ple­tions, one to Stavin­ski and one to Gri­gas, fol­lowed by an­other in­com­ple­tion, left North Schuylkill fac­ing a fourth-and-8 at the 24.

This time, Weist found sopho­more wide­out Jaden Leiby open down­field, with Leiby’s only catch of the night re­sult­ing in a 24-yard touch­down with 4:01 re­main­ing that, af­ter Chowan­sky’s con­ver­sion run, drew the Spar­tans within eight at 22-14.

A failed on­side kick at­tempt gave Le­high­ton a first down just shy of mid­fied.

North Schuylkill’s de­fense stiff­ened, forc­ing a punt that gave the Spar­tans one last chance, start­ing at their own 15 with 2:12 re­main­ing.

This time, with Weist hit­ting five passes, in­clud­ing a 38-yarder and an 18-yarder, both to Rock­well, they again moved the ball down the field.

They reached the In­di­ans’ 7, but a bad shot­gun snap re­sulted in a loss back to the 15. An in­com­ple­tion left them fac­ing a fourth-and-goal at the 15 with 25 sec­onds left. An­other in­com­ple­tion at the goal line turned the ball over to Le­high­ton with 18 sec­onds re­main­ing.

Scherer took a knee to end the game.

Weist fin­ished the game with 208 yards through the air on a 19-of-36 per­for­mance with­out an in­ter­cep­tion. Rock­well and Per­neta both caught five passes, while Stavin­ski hauled in four.

“I’m not go­ing to com­plain about our ef­fort,” Hall said. “The ef­fort was there.

“The bot­tom line, de­fen­sively we need to tackle bet­ter.”

Le­high­ton, at 6-0, has al­ready sur­passed its record of last sea­son when it won the four of the first five games, then lost six straight to fin­ish 4-7.

“This was a big win tonight, and it could be a great cat­a­pult for us,” McCar­roll said. “But ev­ery week, we can ex­pect the same kind of game.”

JaCQUe­LIne dormer / staFF PHo­tog­ra­PHer

North Schuylkill’s Zack Chowan­sky is wrapped up by Le­high­ton’s Brett Gasker (36) dur­ing Fri­day’s Schuylkill League Di­vi­sion I game. Also on the play is Le­high­ton’s Nate Pe­tit-Clair (84), bot­tom, and North Schuylkill’s Danny Tomtishen (65). Chowan­sky rushed for 117 yards and a TD, but the Spar­tans lost 22-14.

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