WHS now 3-0
HAZLETON — Just listen to Cam Dickey when he hits another player on the football field. Close your eyes if you can and listen to the collision, much like the one he had on the goal line in Williamsport’s football game Friday night.
It’s impossible to imagine that thunderous car crash of a sound comes from the smallest player on the football field physically. The senior plays so much bigger than the numbers on the Millionaires’ roster would suggest, and with his eyes on the end zone last night, Dickey wasn’t going to be denied.
The 5-foot-6, 145-pound Dickey ran out of a tackle and planted another defender into the Harman-Geist Stadium turf as he handed Williamsport its first lead of the night. That play lit a fire under the Millionaires which hadn’t been present through a tumultuous first half which saw them lose three fumbles and stare a two-score deficit in the eyes. Dickey changed all those feelings with one bone-crushing hit as Williamsport survived its first test of the season with a 28-26 win over Hazleton.
Joe Fagnano completed 23 of 29 passes for 296 yards and Blaze McClements scored the decisive touchdown in a 114-yard rushing night as the Millionaires stayed unbeaten at 3-0.
“Listen, he’s the biggest kid on every field he steps on,” Williamsport head coach Chuck Crews said. “I’ll take 27 Cam Dickeys and win a state championship.”
Dickey left the game on crutches last night after appearing to tweak his right knee. But the damage he did to Hazleton with that one touchdown play far outweighed anything the Cougars could do to him.
Williamsport had picked up a first down on five of its eight previous plays, including a 15-yard run from Alec Dickey to set the Millionaires up at the Hazleton 10-yard line. That’s when Fagnano hit Cam Dickey with a swing pass out to the right. It was the only pass of the night Dickey caught.
At the 5-yard line he high stepped out of one tackle. At the 3-yard line, he lowered his head and barreled through a defender like a wrecking ball through a decrepit brick building. His final lunge surged him over the goal line setting off a firestorm of a celebration from the Williamsport sideline.
Angelo Girardi kicked the third of his four PATs and Williamsport had a lead it never relinquished.
“He’s the heart and soul of the team,” Fagnano said. “He comes out ready to play every day. His size doesn’t matter because he’s coming out here like he’s six-nine.”
Williamsport regained control of a football game with a two-touchdown third quarter. It was a football game the Millionaires tried to give away in the first half. Losing three fumbles all inside the Hazleton 30-yard line, and one of which inside the 5-yard line.
The 188 yards gained in the first half by Williamsport were irrelevant because of the fumbles. Outside of an eight-play, 61-yard drive to open the game with a Fagnano 6-yard TD run, there was little rhythm in the Millionaires offense because of the three fumbles and because Hazleton cashed all three in for touchdowns of their own.
The first fumble midway through the first quarter led to the first of four Ryan Wolk touchdown passes, this one an 18-yard strike on a wheel route to running back Adrian Otero. The second came on the sixth play of the second quarter and led to a 59-yard scoring strike from Wolk to David Smith.
And the third, in the waning minutes of the second quarter, led to a 5-yard shovel pass touchdown from Wolk to Otero. And all of a sudden at halftime, Williamsport was staring at a 19-7 deficit despite feeling like it could move the football offensively.
“They could have easily packed it up and got ready for Valley West, but they didn’t,” Crews said. “They want to win. A couple kids stepped up and showed some real good leadership. Some things were said at halftime by the players and it resonated.”
“We were putting ourselves down and we knew we had to overcome ourselves and we’d be fine,” Fagnano said.
They surely overcame themselves. After missing more than a dozen tackles in the first half, the Williamsport defense was a vice in the second half, holding the Hazleton offense to just 31 second-half yards. Otero and Damon Horton combined for 90 rushing yards in the first half, but carried five times for just 2 yards in the second half.
Chance Bower, who hadn’t played defense in three years, recorded the final of his three sacks in the second half as the Cougars rushed for minus-6 yards as a team and completed just 3 of 14 passes.
“I really think we made (Wolk) uncomfortable,” Bower said. “He was having a tough time getting out of the pocket and we kept the pressure on him and it worked out.”
“There were no adjustments to be made,” Crews said. “They just had to play. There were no adjustments to be made on either side of the ball. They just had to play.”
Fagnano hit Colin Esposito on a 26-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-14 to cap a 10-play, 70-yard drive to kickstart the scoring in the second half. As the pocket broke down, Fagnano rolled right and Esposito broke deep off his route and was hit in the chest with the ball in stride.
Five minutes later Dickey ran through a defender for his tide-turning touchdown, and McClements scored the game-winner with just under 10 minutes to go to move keep the Millionaires undefeated.
“I’m so proud of the second half and how they came out. But the point we try to get across to them is if you play four quarters of football, this game is over,” Crews said. “But there’s something about this team we learned tonight. We could have laid down. We could have succomb. But we didn’t. There’s something here with this team.”