Delaware Valley advanced to yet another state tournament berth
For the second time this season the Hazleton Area Cougars came to the banks of the Delaware River looking for a win.
And, for the second time this season, they headed back to the Mountain City empty handed.
Not only did Delaware Valley inflict another wound on Hazleton during Saturday’s District 2-4 Class 6A subregional title bout, but they did it by a bigger margin.
Given the youth and experience level of the Warriors, not many people pegged them as contenders, let alone repeat champions.
The trailing elements of an afternoon snow squall were present when the Warriors and Cougars stepped onto the gridiron.
DV got on the board early when Zach Scillia connected with Colin Walters on a 41-yard pass play with 7:27 to go in the first quarter. Noah Sorrell kicked the extra point and DelVal was up 7-0.
However, the Cougars mounted a 71-yard drive that would tie things up before the end of the period when Damon Horton took it 13-yards into the end zone and Wil Garcia split the posts for the PAT.
At the end of one, it was a 7-7 game.
A solid sprint by Josh Balcarcel and a catch by Jawon Foushee set up Scillia for a 5-yard run with 11:15 remaining in the half.
Sorrell made the point-after and DV was up 14-7.
Hunter Klein sacked Hazleton quarterback Sparky Wolk which forced a Cougars field goal attempt that didn’t pan out.
With three seconds left before the break, Balcarcel closed out a DV push that put them up 21-7 after another PAT by Sorrell.
Balcarcel continued to shine in the second half.
With 7:26 still to go in the third period, the junior running back blew up the middle to take it 13-yards across the line.
Sorrell added the extra point and the Warriors were now leading 28-7.
Despite solid defensive pressure by Jimmy Lynch, Wolk recovered to find Dave Smith for a 14-yard passing TD with 5:38 left in the third.
The Cougars tacked on the PAT and closed the gap to 28-14 as the game went to the final quarter.
That was all Hazleton would give up.
The fourth quarter was solidly a DV game. Lynch stopped a big run by Horton, preventing another Cougar touchdown and following that, Scillia, on defense, picked off Wolk. Foushee set things up for the Warriors last push.
Balcarcel took it to the house, but the run was called back to the Hazleton 10-yard line.
After some short gains, Scillia capped off the charge with a 4-yard run.
Sorrell made his fourth conversion of the afternoon and gave Delaware Valley a 35-14 lead that they held for the remaining 4:57.
“Our guys played pretty good football,” said Head Coach Keith Olsommer.
“For our guys to keep an explosive team like Hazleton back like that was a big deal.”
Balcarcel’s 181 rushing yards on Saturday put him over the 1000 mark for the season.
Similarly, Scillia continues to emerge as a force completing 10-of-14 pass attempts for 159 yards on the afternoon.
Foushee picked up 47 yards on five catches and Klein made a pair of receptions good for 48. Sorrell boosted his PAT total to 40 having missed just three all season.
“Zach was outstanding,” Olsommer said. “He’s really grown and has become more confidence in the pocket. Plus, the guys around him have matured and are playing at a higher level.
“He had some growing pains early in the season because he overstretched sometimes, but he continues to progress and gave us a lot in the biggest game of the season.”
On the Card
The win marks Delaware Valley’s third consecutive District Two Class 6A championship and their second straight trip to the PIAA state tournament.
On Friday Nov. 16, DV will get a rematch with State College. Last fall the Little Lions delivered a 21-14 defeat to the Warriors in the opening round of the playoffs.
Although the Lions graduated 21 players last year, they returned close to 30 seniors this season.
At 11-1, State College remains a formidable force, something with which the 9-3 Warriors will have to contend.
“We’re a very different team than we were five weeks ago,” Olsommer stated, “I’m not sure any team we’ve faced this season has made the strides that we have.”
Senior quarterback Tom Friberg completed 116 of 173 passes for 1863 yards and 21 touchdowns for State College.
His usual target, classmate Keaton Ellis has notched 44 receptions and brought it home 14 times.
The Lions ground assault is solid too.
Junior Isaiah Edwards leads the rushing TDs with 14 while sophomore Dresyn Green has logged 10 trips across the line and boasts 844 total yards.
Add senior Cohen Russell into the mix with a diverse mix of rushing, receiving, and returns and it’s understandable why the Lions have made havoc for their opponents all autumn.
“State College is a very good football team,” said Coach Olsommer. “Some have already committed to good college programs.
“We saw some of these guys last year and we know we will have our hands full, but it’s good to have your hands full and be playing football at this time of the year, so we’re going to give it the best we can.”