Paupack advances to the 2018 PIAA state tournament

A cold, drenching rain caused the postponement of the District 2-11 Class 5A subregional title tilt between Wallenpaupack Area (8-3) and East Stroudsburg South (8-3) by a full evening.

The previous week, Paupack waged a comeback campaign to post a 28-10 win over Southern Lehigh while South notched a 32-15 decision against Pocono Mountain East.

Although the skies cleared, the air was still nippy Saturday night as the Buckhorns and Cavaliers took to the gridiron.

Long Wait

The 7 p.m. kickoff was delayed 40 minutes due to lighting issues.

However, once the game got underway, the squads battled through a series of turnovers with an interception by Paupack’s Darian Joseph being the highlight of the opening period.

After one quarter, the game was scoreless, and remained that way through most of the second quarter as well.

Adam Haupt finally broke the stalemate with just 2:03 remaining in the half. Making the catch from Tommy McCormick, he strode over the goal line.

Connor Barnes followed up with the extra point and made it a 7-0 game going into intermission.

Heating Up

There are a few universal “nevers.” Never feed a Mogwai after midnight; never tell Han Solo the odds; and never think you’re gonna get ahead of this Buckhorns squad in the second half.

With 8:05 to play in the third quarter, Paupack added some insurance by the way of a Nick Ruggieri touchdown. Barnes split the posts for the plus-one, and Paupack was now up 14-0.

The Cavaliers looked as though they might close the gap late in the third. A long march back upfield following Ruggieri’s TD inched them closer and closer to the endzone.

South would have ended the shutout had Matt Horvak not picked off Brayden Mitchell’s pass in the final seconds of the period. Ingulli followed up the interception with a gigantic run that put Paupack on South’s doorstep one again.

Rolling Along

Things continued to go south for South in the fourth quarter.

ESS penalties with some steady advancement by the Buckhorns set things up for a touchdown run by Manny Obeng with 7:08 left in the game.

A penalty on the PAT attempt put Paupack even closer to the goal line and instead they opted to go for two with Obeng on the carry.

The run was good, and the Deer were now up 22-0.

“I knew I’d be tapped for the two-point run,” Obeng said. “As soon as I saw them moving the ball, I knew it was going to me.”

Another Cavalier pass attempt went wrong less than two minutes later.

Some juggling was required, but Haupt was eventually able to grab the ball, lock it in and make a significant stride, finally ending his return on the South 10-yard line.

A dash by Ingulli on the next play boosted the Paupack lead and Barnes further opened it up with a good kick.

With 5:28 still on the clock, the Buckhorns were now up 29-0.

Last Ditch Effort

East Stroudsburg South made one final push at the Purple Pit. An attack with consistent gains kept Paupack's defense busy late in the fourth.

The Buckhorns did a good job at breaking up plays and almost stopped another endzone incursion when the Cavaliers fumbled close to the goal line.

However, South’s Michael Long recovered the loose ball, in the zone, and earned the Cavs a touchdown with just 58 seconds to play.

South tacked on the PAT and it was a 29-7 game.

By now the Bucks were starting to quietly celebrate. They knew it was all about time management, yet Alex Gardsy made a good push for nice field position on the ensuing kickoff.

In control around mid-field, McCormick took a knee to run out the clock and Paupack easily held on for the victory.

That’s a Wrap

“They put up a pretty tough defense,” Obeng said.

“We came out in the second quarter looking for a spark and that pass to Haupt for a touchdown was the spark we needed. After that we just kept going.”

While the Cavs might have had some offensive issues, they did a good job slowing down the Buckhorns.

Ingulli, Ruggieri, and Obeng combined for just 169 rushing yards.

Passing worked well for Paupack. McCormick connected on 4-of-11 attempts for 85 yards.

South tallied 101 yards on the ground and picked up 166 in the air. Mitchell completed 22-of-36 passes but gave up a trio of interceptions.

“We might be the only people who expected to win this game,” said Head Coach Dr. Mark Watson. “And, we are the only people who thought we’d be where we are now.”

Dr. Watson cited his defensive squad for their tremendous effort and lauded the entire team for playing a full four quarters of football.

“People have said to me that we’re getting hot at the right time and there’s no doubt about that!” Doc exclaimed.“Our kids are playing inspired. They are focused. They have no other ideas other than winning!”

Up Ahead

Paupack will face 8-4 Hollidaysburg, which emerged from the District VI/VII/X-5A Subregional tournament by defeating Brashear 37-8 and followed it up with a 33-22 triumph over Oil City.

The state 5A opening round will be held at Danville on Friday, Nov. 16. Kickoff time is slated for 7 p.m.

“I’m very proud of all our guys,” said Dr. Watson.

“And they’re proud to represent the community. I’m still getting calls, and texts, and emails from alums wishing us well. It’s crazy!

“We’re thankful for that kind of support and want to keep going for all the people who’ve done so much for Wallenpaupack football for the last 30 years.”