KINGSTON – It was billed as a possible playoff preview between two teams jockeying for position in the standings.
Instead, it was a defensive clinic put on by Wyoming Valley West.
The Spartans’ defense made Stroudsburg quarterback Mike Nikorak’s evening a living nightmare, picking the junior off four times, as Valley West scored five times on the ground and forced a total of six turnovers in a 42-28 victory.
Both WVW and Stroudsburg entered the game with 4-1 records and sat in the top 8 of the Districts 2-4-11 subregional.
Now, all signs point to a possible home game in Luzerne County if the locals could finish off the regular season strong.
“This was a playoff game, and we talked about it,” WVW head coach Pat Keating said. “The winner of this game was going to position itself for a possible home game. And that’s what we were playing for. Right now, we control our own destiny. But we have to take care of business in the final four games.”
Valley West’s defense has been incredible as of late, forcing an astonishing 10 turnovers in the last two weeks, turning six of those 10 into scores.
Not only did the Spartans force six turnovers, Stroudsburg tailback Gerald Douglas – who had close to 800 yards rushing entering the night – was held to just 77 yards on 21 carries. Thirty of those came on a late carry in the second half.
“We had a big game defensively, and we knew how important it was to win this game,” said Colin Hanson, who had two of the five interceptions. “We had to come out and play hard. We want to be in this stadium in Week 11. Defensively, we just played with speed. We wanted to get after their quarterback, and we did it tonight.”
The offense wasn’t too shabby, either. Last week, the Spartans scored 49 unanswered. One week later, it was 35 unmatched points as Valley West took a 35-6 lead into the fourth quarter. For the game, WVW had 340 yards of total offense as quarterback Michael Baur had 134 yards passing and 63 receiving.
Stroudsburg jumped out to a quick, 6-0 lead in the first quarter after driving 66 yards on the game’s opening series – capped off by a quarterback keeper by Nikorak. It was the last time the Mounties were even close to the Spartans.
“Two of our turnovers led to 14 points, and you can’t do that against a good team,” Stroudsburg head coach Jim Miller said. “We just didn’t play our type of game. Give them credit because they were good defensively. No doubt, this game had a playoff-type feel, and these are the kind of games that you have to win.”
Two touchdown runs by Baur, and a Bill Davison 46-yard interception return to the end zone gave the Spartans a 21-6 lead at the break.
Eric Acosta owned the third quarter, scoring from 8 yards out and 2 yard away, pushing the advantage to 35-6. He finished with 92 yards on 16 carries.
“We started off a little slow, and had some mental breakdowns on their first drive. If we were going to win this game, we had to control the game on the line of scrimmage on both sides, and I think we did that,” Keating said. “Defensively, we put some different packages in this week and we wanted to create some confusion with different fronts,” Keating said. “The defense staff did a great job, and the kids did a great job of execution.”
Wyoming Valley West 42, Stroudsburg 28
S – Mike Nikorak 1 run (kick blocked), 7:55
W – Michael Baur 4 run (Ian Ultsh kick), 4:57
W – Baur 1 run (Ultsh kick), 10:26
W – Bill Davison 46-yard interception return (Ultsh kick), 7:59
W – Eric Acosta 8 run (Ultsh kick), 10:17
W – Acosta 2 run (Ultsh kick), 6:55
S – TJ Backer 11 pass from Nikorak (Nico Ruiz kick), 11:30
W – Sean Judge 7 run (Ultsh kick), 5:18
S – Joel Ozoemena 64 pass from John Jakobsen (Ruiz kick), 3:40
S – Sean Davies 3 run (Jakobsen pass to Dillon Dunne), 0:30
RUSHING —S, Gerald Douglas 21-77, Sean Davies 3-10, Mike Nikorak 7-5, Justin Pierre 1-3, Kevin Howarth 1-3. W, Eric Acosta 16-92, Michael Baur 13-63, Troy Yashinski 5-32, Sean Judge 3-25, Dasheym Weeks 1-1, Michael Baird 1-(-3), Team 2-(-4).
PASSING —S, Mike Nikorak 7-14-4-104, John Jakobsen 2-4-1-73. W, Michael Baur 5-8-1-134.
RECEIVING — S, Joel Ozoemena 4-98, Marcello Riccardo 2-49, Gerald Douglas 2-19, TJ Backer 1-11. W, Michael Sands 2-31, Alex Barilla 1-59, LJ Wesneski 1-25, Sean Judge 1-19.
INTERCEPTIONS – S, Prentice Sprewell II. W, Colin Hanson 2, Bill Davison, Michael Baur, Chris Baranski.
MISSED FIELD GOALS – S, Nico Ruiz 1 (37 yards).