Wallenpaupack Area eliminated at PIAA state tournament
Weather once again played havoc with the Wallenpaupack Area football schedule.
For the third time in four outings, the Buckhorns were at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Their game during Week #10 of the Lackawanna Football Conference regular season was pushed back a day due to conditions at Abington Heights.
The following week, the Bucks played through the rain at home to defeat Southern Lehigh in round one of the District 2-11 Class 5A subregional playoffs. While that match went off on schedule, the next week’s title match against East Stroudsburg South was also delayed a night because of rain.
When it was announced that Paupack's first round 5A state playoff game versus Hollidaysburg would be postponed by an afternoon because of snow on Danville’s field, it wasn’t shocking.
Under overcast skies and in the chilly damp of a Danville day, the 9-3 Buckhorns finally faced the 8-4 Golden Tigers.
Hollidaysburg, who emerged from the District 6-7-10 Class 5A sub-regional with a win over Oil City the previous week, won the coin toss and elected to kickoff.
While the Bucks chewed up time on their opening drive, they unfortunately had to punt. That set up the Tigers for an 84-yard drive that took 12 plays to complete.
It climaxed with a touchdown by quarterback Brady Waters.
Hollidaysburg made the PAT and led 7-0 at the end of the opening period with the Bucks in possession.
Walters crossed the goal line again in the 2nd quarter. The point-after was good and with 7:54 remaining in the half, Hollidaysburg held a 14-0 lead that would stand until intermission.
Tiger defense hampered the Buckhorn rushers Joe Ingulli and Nick Ruggieri, while Tom McCormick was able to make some headway with the passing game, the air attack turned up just as many yards at the ground game.
Typically, the Buckhorns have been a good second half team. Sadly for local fans, that turned out to be not the case in this one.
Ethan Pinter got things going for the Tigers in the second half by splitting the uprights for a 27-yard field goal with 7:25 remaining in the third. Nate Fisher scored for Hollidaysburg with 3:02 to go in the quarter. Pinter’s kick made it a 24-0 game going into the final period.
Things certainly had not been going Paupack's way.
A combination of a fumble, some errant balls, incomplete passes, and turnovers of various nature plagued the Buckhorns on the field, but no love came from the officials either.
A questionable pass interference call in the second quarter set the Tigers up for a touchdown, and another call in the third period pushed Dr. Mark Watson and the rest of the Paupack coaching staff to a flashpoint.
Fans jeered, and the sidelines nearly went ablaze in the fourth when the Tigers fumbled deep in their own zone.
The Buckhorns recovered, but the call somehow went in favor of Hollidaysburg, which took possession and earned a first down.
Although Paupack forced a punt, soon thereafter they were picked off for the second time of the day with 8:32 left in the game.
That set up the Tigers for another drive that concluded with 3:55 to play on a 1-yard rush by Gus Dellinger. The PAT pushed Hollidaysburg's lead to an insurmountable 31-0.
The Tigers would hold on to claim the win and advance to the quarterfinals while Paupack would end their season with an unfortunate loss.
“We did something this year nobody has done before,” Coach Watson said to his team post-game.
“We can reflect on the fun we had, the games we won, and the adversity we overcame to get to where we finished.”
This autumn, Ruggieri posted 1,316 rushing yards on 212 carries for 15 touchdowns. Ingulli also crossed the goal line on 15 tries, running 928 yards on 154 attempts and another 133 yards receiving.
Manny Obeng notched six trips into the endzone for the Buckhorns and ran 270 yards on 34 runs; he also had eight receptions.
Anthony Dalessio made 30 receptions for 465 yards and scored four times.
Adam Haupt had four TDs on nine receptions good for 156 yards and Erik Smith made 16 catches for 267 yards and brought it in twice.
McCormick launched 171 times and connected on 79 of those tries for 1,158 yards. While he was intercepted eight times, he threw for 10 scores.
Defensively, JT Tirjan led the picks with seven while Haupt intercepted a trio of passes.
Tyler Neglia, who was out most of the season returned late and with Exavier Warner, helped provide some wallop in the secondary.
Undoubtedly, a great deal of credit needs to go to both the O-Line and D-Line.
Brandon King, Chance Smith, Tommy Hiller, Bradley Frick, and Josh Moore showed grit and determination throughout the season on either side of the ball.
The Buckhorns, despite the loss to the Golden Tigers, can hold their heads high as they put the cap on the fall. Ending the year with a 9-4 record is unprecedented in team history.
“We didn’t play our game,” Dr. Watson said.
“We didn’t catch, we fumbled, and things just didn’t go the way we had hoped they would. That doesn’t take away from the fantastic season we had.
“This was a good year for Buckhorn football and I’m very proud of our kids and everything that they were able to accomplish this year.”