WRIGHT TWP. — One goal-line stand was impressive enough. Crestwood had two of them in the first half.
Those defensive stops completely changed the complexion of Saturday night’s game, as the Comets went on to dominated Hazleton Area 48-7 in a Wyoming Valley Conference interdivisional contest.
Crestwood improved to 5-1 with its fifth consecutive victory. Hazleton Area fell to 2-4.
The score was tied 7-7 when a bad snap early in the second quarter gave Hazleton Area excellent field position at the Crestwood 38-yard line. The Cougars proceeded to drive to the Comets’ 3-yard line, where they set up for a first-and-goal situation.
The first two plays moved the ball to the 1. The third-down play — a run by Zach Zuchoski — was snuffed out by Crestwood defensive lineman Brandon Ruckle for a 1-yard loss. Hazleton Area tried Zuchoski again, but defensive lineman Frank Cordeiro knocked him back for no gain.
Three plays later, Crestwood running back Brandon Cole zipped 91 yards for a touchdown on a misdirection play. The point-after gave the Comets the lead for good, 14-7.
The lead looked shaky late in the second half when an even worst snap, this one from punt formation, resulted in a 27-yard loss for Crestwood. Hazleton Area took over at the Crestwood 15 with 57 seconds left until halftime. Two plays moved the ball to the Crestwood 1 where Hazleton Area called its final timeout with 31 seconds remaining.
The Cougars tried twice to sneak quarterback Ryan Heller into the end zone. Linebacker Tyler Robinson stopped the first attempt. Cordeiro and Matt Bobeck ganged up to stop the second. The Cougars hurried to the line to run another play, but time expired.
“Our front eight are phenomenal defensive football players,” Crestwood coach Greg Myers said. “We have something this year we haven’t had in awhile, and a lot of teams can’t do this. We have fronts that only play one way. Our defensive kids are fresh and have been stepping up.”
Linebacker Mike Legg took center stage in the second half. After quarterback Jay Popson scored on a 16-yard run to increase the Crestwood lead to 21-7 at 6:03 of the third, Legg picked off a pass and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown. He also added a pair of sacks, one of which resulted in a fumble that led to Crestwood’s final score.
Hazleton Area ran the ball well early using Zuchoski, who finished with 138 yards on 21 carries. But overall, the offense floundered in the second half. Meanwhile, Crestwood runners piled up 413 yards, with Frank Aigeldinger leading the way with 116 on 13 carries.
Crestwood 48, Hazleton Area 7
HA — Zach Zukoski 39 run (Tristan Williams kick), 8:42
CRE — Jacob Zbegner 4 run (George Gendler kick), 7:17
CRE — Brandon Cole 91 run (Gendler kick), 3:11
CRE — Jay Popson 16 run (Gendler kick), 6:03
CRE — Mike Legg 48 interception return (Gendler kick), 5:28
CRE — Matt Bobeck 7 run (Gendler kick), 7:40
CRE — Bobeck 59 run (kick failed), 5:21
CRE — Johnny Macri 4 run (Gendler kick), 4:01
Team statistics`Haz Area`Crest
RUSHING — Haz Area, Z.Zuchoski 21-138, Nick George 8-5, Ryan Heller 6-(minus-6), Julius Ward 3-5. Crestwood, Frank Aigeldinger 13-116, Tanner Kahlau 4-26, Popson 14-85, Zbegner 2-6, Legg 1-7, Cole 1-91, Bobeck 2-66, Lance Blass 2-12, Macri 1-4, team 4-(minus-56).
PASSING — Haz Area, Heller 5-14-2-39, Ward 0-5-1-0.
RECEIVING — Haz Area, Jeff Ochs 3-40, Gavin Kopczynskie 1-13, George 1-(minus-4).
INTERCEPTIONS — Crestwood, Andrew Chang 1-0, Legg 1-48, Hunter May 1-18.
MISSED FGs — None.