WILKES-BARRE — The king reigned Saturday night, even on a pair of wobbly legs.
Rashaun Mathis went from pregame Homecoming King to on-field playmaker as GAR finally distanced itself from Holy Redeemer for a 35-14 victory in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2A-A game.
Mathis finished with three interceptions, returning one 70 yards for a touchdown. He also ran for two scores from the quarterback position, including a 10-yard TD in the Grenadiers’ 20-point outburst in the game’s final 5:12.
That 10-yard TD run with 1:37 to play also left Mathis with cramps in both calves and in extreme pain.
“Like a 12 on a scale of 1-10,” he said.
The victory eased the soreness somewhat. GAR (1-4) snapped a five-game losing streak dating back to last year’s District 2 Class 2A semifinals.
“I’d rather have the victory,” said Mathis, who swapped his helmet for a shiny blue crown after the game. “This crown, I don’t care too much for it.”
GAR appeared primed to pull away on its first possession of the third quarter. The Grenadiers drove to the Redeemer 1-yard line when disaster struck. A fumble landed in the backfield where Redeemer linebacker Pat Villani scooped it up. Villani lost the handle after a few steps, and teammate Eric Kerr picked up the ball and ran 77 yards for a touchdown.
The two-point conversion cut GAR’s lead to 15-8.
Redeemer (1-4) then converted an interception by Jason Hoggarth into another touchdown in the final minute of the third quarter. Jimmy Strickland capped the eight-play drive by escaping from the pass rush to find Hoggarth for an 8-yard TD strike.
Redeemer, though, couldn’t get closer than 15-14. Nor could the Royals make full amends for a shaky first half. They turned over the ball three times in their first four plays of the game. One of them led to an 28-yard interception return for a touchdown by Rashaun Jackson. In all, 22 of GAR’s points came after Redeemer turnovers.
“We gave the game to them,” Redeemer coach Pat Reece said. “Can’t win a game with all those turnovers in the first quarter. We fell apart at the end. That last reverse pass (Mathis’ TD) he was wide open, but he threw it to the inside and the free safety got it. That was the quick score we needed to get it to 22-21.”
GAR outgained Redeemer 340-150, with running back Rich Sickler gaining 182 yards on 28 carries. The Grenadiers, though, had ballhandling issues as well. They fumbled six times, losing two, and also had two passes intercepted.
“Our kids really battled to the end,” GAR coach Paul Wiedlich Jr. said. “Our big thing was they had to finish. The first four weeks were quite frustrating because we were so close.
“Lakeland we were really close. Dunmore we played well for a half. Carbondale we didn’t show up. Last week we improved against Northwest and this week were were able to finish a game and get a victory.”
GAr 35, Holy Redeemer 14
GAR — Dawin Reyes 21 FG, 8:21
GAR — Rashaun Jackson 28 interception return (kick blocked), 8:07
GAR — Rashaun Mathis 1 run (run failed), 9:47
HR — Eric Kerr 77 fumble return (Pat Villani from Jimmy Strickland), 8:14
HR — Jason Hoggarth 9 pass from Strickland (pass failed), 0:32
GAR — Anthony Maurent 1 run (Reyes kick), 5:12
GAR — Mathis 70 interception return (Reyes kick), 4:48
GAR — Mathis 10 run (kick failed), 1:37
RUSHING — Redeemer, P.Villani 7-18, Strickland 13-48, Kerr 1-11. GAR, Sickler 28-182, Maurent 7-27, Mathis 11-63, Marquhan Kemp 1-3, Korey Welkey 7-16, Kyle Merth 1-2, Justin Crosby 1-0.
PASSING — Redeemer, Strickland 9-23-3-73, Kerr 0-2-2-0. GAR, Mathis 4-12-2-47.
RECEIVING — Redeemer, P.Villani 6-45, Eric Shorts 1-14, Hoggarth 2-14. GAR, Jackson 2-20, Crosby 2-27.
INTERCEPTIONS — Redeemer, Hoggarth 1-0, Kerr 1-30. GAR, Jackson 1-28, Mathis 3-70, Kemp 1-(minus-2).
MISSED FGs — None.