TUNKHANNOCK — Coughlin survived a late surge from Tunkhannock to secure an 18-13 victory on the road Friday in the season opener.
“I thought we had way too many turnovers and penalties, but we had a lot of kids who hadn’t played before,” Coughlin coach Ciro Cinti said. “Tunkhannock played a fantastic game and they didn’t give up. This is a good game for us because it’s a tough, four-quarter game and we’ll take a win any time.”
The Crusaders built an 18-0 lead midway through the third quarter before Tunkhannock went to the air. Brett Stage sneaked behind the defense on two straight receptions that amounted to 75 yards and a touchdown to cut the deficit to 18-7 with four minutes left in the third quarter.
In the first half, the Tigers spent most of the game throwing short passes and running the ball.
“They were loading up on us and playing man coverage so we decided to go after them a little bit,” Tunkhannock coach Rod Azar said. “We made a couple plays that loosened them up some.”
After forcing a punt, the Tigers drove the ball into the red zone. On fourth down the Crusaders halted the Tunkhannock drive, stopping Shane Edmondson a yard short of the first down to force a turnover on downs.
On the ensuing possession, Tunkhannock forced another three-and-out and started with the ball in Coughlin territory.
This time, the resilient Tigers would not be denied as they converted on a third-and-long and fourth-and-short on the 40-yard touchdown drive.
During the drive, Ryan Cywinski eluded defenders and carried them on his back to move the Tigers deep into the red zone. Brian Beauchemin barreled across the goal line to cap off the drive and cut the Coughlin lead to 18-13.
“I was really proud of the kids in the second half,” Azar said. “I wish we didn’t come out and make the mistakes we did in the first half. Maybe we could have had a different outcome.”
With just under four minutes remaining, Coughlin needed to keep the ball out of Tunkhannock’s hands. By putting the ball in the hands of quarterback Tim Pilch and running back Paul Cole, the Crusaders did just that.
The workhorses combined for 36 yards on five carries in the final drive to secure the win for Coughlin.
“We said get a couple first downs and that’s it,” Cinti said, “Instead of taking the easy way out, they worked and got a couple first downs to seal the victory. I’m happy with that.”
Pilch finished with 169 yards on 20 carries, while Cole added 101 yards on 17 carries for the 1-0 Crusaders.
Coughlin 18, Tunhannock 13
COU — Paul Cole 1 run (2 pt. fail)
COU — Cole 8 run (2 pt. fail)
COU — Cole 16 run (2 pt. fail)
TUNK — Brett Stage 43 catch from Brian Beauchemin (Beauchemin kick)
TUNK — Beauchemin 4 run (2 pt. fail)
RUSHING — COU, Cole 17-101, Tim Pilch 20-169, Tyler Layton 1-27, Tom Mitchell 1-0. TUNK, Ryan Cywinski 10-53, Beauchemin 20-131, Joey Leon 2-(minus-1), Ryan Eli 2-(minus-4).
PASSING — COU, Pilch 1-7-28-0. TUNK, Beauchemin 2-7-46-0, Eli 4-6-39-0.
RECEIVING — COU, Darik Johnson 1-28. TUNK, Brett Stage 3-71, Cywinski 1-3, Leon 1-(minus-1), Shane Edmondson 1-3.