When Hazleton needed a big play, it delivered.
And after scoring just 12 points through its first three games-all of which were losses - Hazleton used two kickoff returns and two Zach Zukoski rushing touchdowns to defeat Williamsport, 48-25, for its first win of the season.
Each kickoff return came on the heels of a Williamsport scoring drive, stopping the Millionaires cold.
Sadiq Burkholder of Williamsport (9) and Zach Kehler (8) of Hazleton go up for a pass Friday at Williamsport.
The first return followed a six-play, 50-yard drive that was capped by the first of two Dale Berkheimer rushing touchdowns. Devion Barlow (1 carry for 25 yards, 1 catch for 21 yards) fumbled the kick, but had enough time to recover the ball and streak down the sideline for an 85-yard return. Barlow also scored on a 25-yard run with 6:53 left in the fourth quarter.
"I thought it was important that our kids played all four quarters tonight," Hazleton coach Jim Drumheller said. "I told the kids that if they score we can't put our head down and just stop playing. When they did score we responded with a special team's play or long drive."
Both team's entered Friday's contest with something to prove. Hazleton, which entered still in search of its first win, had scored 12 points through three games, all of which came in last week's 49-12 loss to Scranton. Williamsport, which is off to an equally disappointing 0-3 start, has struggled to keep possession, turning the ball over a combined 10 times over the span.
And Williamsport added to those totals with two interceptions and a fumble in Friday's loss.
"I'm not happy," Williamsport coach Kevin Choate said. "I love these kids and I want they to win. We are working extremely hard, and these are great kids. We are making some mistakes and getting shutdown in come areas."
After the Millionaires exchanged touchdowns with the Cougars to open the second half, Williamsport took its second drive 82 yards in two plays with Miller running in a 77-yard touchdown. Miller also punched in a touchdown to open the half when he broke through the line from one-yard out. The Millionaires featured back gained 130 yards on 17 carries for his fourth straight 100-yard game of the season.
But, as good as the opening drives of the second half were, Hazleton once against destroyed all the positives with a long kickoff return. This time, Zack Kehler, who caught the ball cleanly, broke through the Williamsport coverage to put Hazleton up 35-25 with 3:50 left in the third quarter.
"We stress all the time there are three areas to this football team: offense, defense and special teams," Drumheller said. "And we put a lot of work into our special teams and tonight it paid off."
The Cougars, besides a pair of knees at the end of the game, scored on each of its second half possessions, while racking up 155 yards of special teams alone.
The two teams had split their previous four games, with Hazleton winning last year's contest, 32-21, for a week 3 win at home. In the loss, Miller rushed for 126 yards on 17 carries. He also broke off a 73-yard touchdown in the loss, which was similar to the 77-yard touchdown run in the third.
"Miller turned it up," Choate said. "I put a challenge to him at half and told him to show everybody he's a division I athlete."
After a shanked punt ended Hazleton's first drive, Williamsport, in desperate need of something positive, drove the 32 yards down the field on seven plays for an early 6-0 advantage. The Millionaires were stopped on three consecutive plays from inside the five yard line before Dale Berkheimer plunged through the line for a 1-yard touchdown.
Berkheimer showed much more poise in the pocket passing. On Williamsport's two first-half scoring drives, Berkheimer completed passes of 38 and 29 yards, respectively, to extend the possessions.
Hazleton, which scored on three of its first four possessions, exceeded its three-game point total, posting 20 first half points.