KINGSTON – After more than 17 minutes of play in the Eastern Conference Class 4A championship game, it appeared as if Nazareth was going to roll to a victory over Wyoming Valley West.
The Blue Eagles held a seven-point lead and the Spartans offense showed no signs of breaking through a stingy Nazareth defense.
Then something clicked for the Spartans. And after going three-and-out on their first two drives, they punted just three more times the rest of the game to claim an Eastern Conference championship for the first time in school history with a dramatic 29-28 double-overtime victory at Spartan Stadium.
The two wins this season for the Spartans in the Eastern Conference tourney were the first two in school history and capped the campaign with wins in eight of their last nine games.
It might not be the ultimate championship that we played for, but this is still a championship and the tradition of the Eastern Conference, it doesn't get any better than this, Spartan coach Pat Keating. Most teams in Pennsylvania end their season with a loss. To end with a win and at home, I'll take that any day.
One of the biggest turnarounds in the game came from running back Brett Good. After Valley West – which ends its season with a 9-3 record – tied the game at 14 with 10:56 left in the fourth quarter, the Spartans got the ball back on a fumbled kick return recovered by Ian Moran. The team was driving in Blue Eagles territory before Good fumbled and Nazareth regained possession with10:03 left and a chance to eat some time and get a score.
The fumble didn't cost WVW any points and Keating didn't shy away from getting the ball to his 6-foot, 200-pound back. The coach had so much confidence in Good that he called his number with the game on the line in the second overtime to go for a two-point conversion and the win when down 28-27.
Good answered the call bulldozing for the 2 yards and the victory.
I needed to redeem myself. I had to score, Good said. I was going to score. I could not, not score. It's unreal. To think double overtime… I'm just making sure I'm holding onto that ball and getting into the end zone.
In the second quarter, after Nazareth (6-6) took a 7-0 lead midway through the period, Spartan tailback Derrick Simms started to get going. He was bottled up for minus-6 yards on his first three carries during Valley West's first two possessions. After that, the senior who piled up 128 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, didn't lose yardage on another run the rest of the night.
He capped an 8-play, 59-yard drive by the Spartans on their next drive after getting down by seven with his first score on the night to even the score at 7.
I think it was just settling into the gameplan and a lot of nerves and jitters, Keating said.
The Blue Eagles regained the lead at 14-7 with 8:39 left in the third quarter. The Spartans appeared to be in trouble after their next drive stalled and Nazareth was in the midst of what seemed to be another scoring drive. But a fumble was forced and recovered by Good on the Valley West 34.
Four plays after a long option pass from wide receiver Lucky Williams to Simms, Valley West tied the score at 14 on Simms' second TD run, which eventually forced overtime.
The Spartans started the first overtime with Simms' third TD of the night on the first play of the extra session to go ahead 21-14. Nazareth answered in three plays to tie it up at 21.
In the second overtime, Nazareth found the end zone on its first play and the Spartans needed just two to setup Good's game-winning extra points.
The kids came out and said ‘this is going to be the last play of your careers. Make it count,' Keating noted. So they made it a memorable one.
Class 4A Eastern Conference Championship
Wyoming Valley West 29, Nazareth 28 (2OT)
|Wyo. Valley West||0||7||0||7||7||8||—||29|
NAZ – Shabbar Bokhari 8 run (Benjamin Wieczorek kick) 6:39
WVW – Derrick Simms 3 run (Ian Ultsh kick) 3:28
NAZ – Alexander Tonnies 6 run (Wieczorek kick) 8:39
WVW – Simms 3 run (Ultsh kick) 10:56
WVW – Simms 10 run (Ultsh kick)
NAZ – Jonathan Sandone 15 pas from Parish Simmons (Wieczorek kick)
NAZ – Anthony Gaetaniello 10 run (Wieczorek kick)
WVW – Michael Baur 1 run (Brett Good run)
RUSHING – NAZ: Simmons 22-80, Bokhari 15-47, Tonnies 1-6, Gaetaniello 1-10; WVW: Simms 21-128, Baur 12-14, Alan Sakosky 2-14, Good 4-15, Eric Acosta 5-34
PASSING – NAZ: Simmons 15-26-0-176; WVW: Baur 2-8-0-17, Lucky Williams 1-1-0-47, TEAM 0-1-0-0
RECEIVING – NAZ: Tonnies 10-71, Zachary Berman 1-33, Gaetaniello 1-41, Bokhari 1-6, Thomas Rollins 1-10, Sandone 1-15; WVW: Williams 2-17, Simms 1-47
INTERCEPTIONS – None
MISSED FIELD GOALS – None