KINGSTON — Hazleton Area did just what it wanted on its opening drive.
Running back Zach Zuchoski pounded the Wyoming Valley West defense. Eight minutes were chewed off the clock as the Cougars ran the first 16 plays of the game.
And while Hazleton Area had to settle for a field goal, it established itself against the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 4A leaders.
But then …
“It was an avalanche,” Hazleton Area coach Jim Drumheller said. “It started snowballing and there was no way to stop it.”
Avalanche. Firestorm. Tidal wave. Probably all of the above as Valley West scored eight consecutive touchdowns to rout Hazleton Area 59-10 Friday night.
Valley West (7-1) clinched the WVC Division 4A championship with the win. The Spartans also clinched a spot in the District 2/4-11 Class 4A playoffs. They will likely need to win their next two games to have a chance at a playoff game at Spartan Stadium.
“It’s really important,” Valley West senior receiver/defensive back Mike Sands said. “A home crowd gives intensity to us. It’s better than going to Allentown because that’s a far drive and we might not get a lot of fans. Home-field advantage is just great.”
Sands played his part in Valley West scoring 52 consecutive points after Hazleton Area’s 27-yard field goal by Tristan Williams. Sands caught six passes for a career-high 123 yards — all in the first half as the Spartans built a 24-3 lead at the break. He and Jason Mason intercepted tipped passes in the third quarter and returned them for touchdowns.
Mason brought his return back 34 yards and Sands returned his 55. Running back Eric Acosta added a TD run and scoring reception in the third quarter as Valley West’s lead swelled to 52-3.
Still, the points outburst didn’t erase that opening drive by Hazleton Area.
“That was exactly what we said was going to happen,” Valley West coach Pat Keating said. “We knew they were going to come out and try to shove it down our throats. The first series they did a really, really nice job. We made a couple adjustments and our guys woke up a little bit. I’m happy the way they responded.”
Zuchoski had 41 yards in the opening drive. He finished the first half with 40 as Valley West forced two three-and-outs in the next three possessions by the Cougars (3-5).
Valley West quarterback Mike Baur went over 1,000 yards passing for the second consecutive season. He connected on 8-of-13 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns. Acosta led the rushers with 76 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
Things went so well for the Spartans in the first half that even when backup quarterback Brady Davison underthrew a pass receiver Jermichael Bunch was able to come back and make the catch while sitting on the turf. That led to a 31-yard field goal by Ian Ultsh as time expired in the second quarter.
Wyo. Val. West 59, Hazleton Area 10
Wyo. Val. West`0`24`28`7`—`59
HA — Tristan Williams 27 FG, 4:00
WVW — LJ Wesneski 7 pass from Brady Davison (Ian Ultsh kick), 11:55
WVW — Jeremy Kozich 14 pass from Mike Baur (Ultsh kick), 7:29
WVW — Eric Acosta 6 run (Ultsh kick), 2:33
WVW — Ultsh 31 FG, 0:00
WVW — Acosta 3 run (Ultsh kick), 10:20
WVW — Jordan Mason 34 interception return (Ultsh kick), 10:06
WVW — Acosta 46 pass from Baur (Ultsh kick), 1:43
WVW — Mike Sands 55 interception return (Ultsh kick), 0:21
HA — Nick George 1 run (Williams kick), 10:23
WVW — Daniel Kozick 25 run (Ultsh kick), 1:29
Team statistics`Haz Area`WVW
RUSHING — Haz Area, Zach Zuchoski 18-72, George 5-16, EJ McCallum 2-6, Ryan Heller 1-(minus-7), Brian Fisher 2-16. WVW, Acosta 14-76, Baur 6-45, Troy Yashinski 2-13, Sean Judge 4-15, Bill Davison 2-7, Michael Baird 6-32, Dasheym Weeks 3-10, Daniel Kozick 1-25.
PASSING — Haz Area, Heller 8-15-2-74. WVW, Baur 8-13-1-204, Brady Davison 3-3-0-75.
RECEIVING — Haz Area, Jeff Ochs 3-24, Zuchoski 2-27, Julius Ward 1-5, Joey Bayzick 1-9, Gavin Kopczynskie 1-9. WVW, Sands 6-123, Wesneski 1-7, Jer. Kozich 1-14, Jermichael Bunch 1-30, Judge 1-59, Acosta 1-46.
INTERCEPTIONS — Haz Area, Ochs 1-28. WVW, Mason 1-34, Sands 1-55.
MISSED FGs — None.