SLATINGTON – The single wing – utilized by such football legends as Pop Warner and Knute Rockne, and comedy legends The Marx Brothers – is designed to keep the football moving on the ground via backfield deception.
It's fatal flaw – third-and-long plays. Or at least that's the theory until Pen Argyl proved otherwise in its 21-7 victory over Wyoming Area in the PIAA Class 2A playoffs Saturday.
Pen Argyl converted 5 of 9 third-down tries on what were considered passing downs. All but once, the Green Knights did it on the ground, including a 48-yard TD run by running back Mike DePaolo.
They converted a couple times, whether it was off the edge or the fullback breaking a tackle or a little play-action, Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer said. They did a good job converting in certain situations.
DePaolo took direct, short shotgun snaps on many of his 33 carries for 219 yards, even though quarterback Nick Oyer often lined up just to the side of the center as if he could take it.
It's kind of hard to see in the backfield, Wyoming Area cornerback Jordan Zezza said. It's hard to judge whether it's a pass or a run. Most of the time they are running the ball, so I'm trying to read the tight end. If I went through my reads a little better, I probably should have made a couple more plays.
The most devastating of those third-down conversions came with Pen Argyl leading 7-0 midway through the third quarter.
Facing a third-and-11, Oyer took the snap and handed the ball to DePaolo, who flipped it back to him. Oyer then threw a 26-yard completion to Scott Beltz to the Wyoming Area 1-yard line. The Green Knights scored on the next play.
The pass to Beltz was amazing, Pen Argyl coach Paul Reduzzi said. It's not an offense that you pass a lot out of and Nicky isn't our starting quarterback. The kids did a good job.
Pen Argyl did a great job overall on third-down plays, converting 7 of 14 for first downs. Its final touchdown – a 37-yard run by DePaolo – also came on third down. The conversion rate allowed the Green Knights to run 60 plays compared to 40 by the Warriors. They also controlled the ball for over 30 of the game's 48 minutes.
We had to stop them coming downhill, Spencer said. We didn't stop them, but we certainly slowed them down and we put ourselves in position to be in the game and make some plays. We just didn't make those plays today.
NOTES: Each team had a significant offensive threat sidelined with an injury.
Wyoming Area's Cody Schmitz, who had scored 19 touchdowns entering the game, injured a shoulder while playing defense late in the second quarter. He injured his knee early in the third while on offense and sat out the rest of the game.
Pen Argyl 1,400-yard rusher Mike Racciato left the game in the first quarter after just two carries. Reduzzi said they feared an Achilles injury at first, which would have been devastating for the two-time PIAA Class 2A wrestling champion, who has verbally committed to the University of Pittsburgh to wrestle. It was later determined to be a lower leg muscle problem.