Millionaires rally ends on blocked extra point

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Williamsport's Latrelle Jackson (23) is facemasked by Hazleton's Josh Zukoski (34) on a sweep in the third quarter Friday at Williamsport.

Kurt Danneker knelt at the 35 yard line alone. Ethen Stryker slowly walked off the field with support from family and friends, as did Angelo Gerardi. At the 20-yard line, Cam Dickey paced back and forth still with his helmet on, looking like he could play another 48 minutes. And now, he’d probably give anything to have another 48 minutes on the football field.

Williamsport lost on a heartbreaking blocked extra point with 66 seconds remaining as Hazleton kneeled away the final minute in the Millionaires 28-27 defeat Friday night at STA Stadium in the District 2-4 Class AAAAAA semifinals.

Williamsport overcame a 21-0 first-half deficit to tie the game late in the third quarter but red zone woes and a 73-yard passing touchdown by Hazleton late in the fourth, in addition to the blocked extra point, prevented the Millionaires from having a chance at repeating as district champions.

“You can lose in so many ways, but a blocked extra point? Are you serious? But kudos to those guys. Hats off to them,” Williamsport coach Chuck Crews said. “It stings, nobody likes losing. Especially like that. I’m going to be thinking about this one for a while. Right now all I feel is pain. I feel pain for the seniors. I feel pain for myself. I feel pain for the coaches. I feel pain for the fans. Our season wasn’t supposed to end this way like this here. But it did.”

After coming back from that 21-0 hole, Williamsport climbed back from a 28-21 deficit with just under four minutes remaining. Joe Fagnano, with much help from Latrelle Jackson and Blaze McClements, marched down the field in three minutes and the comeback was nearly complete with Fagnano’s quarterback sneak on second-and-goal from the 1. But Hazleton blocked the ensuing, and more than likely overtime clinching, extra point as the far sideline became engulfed with pandemonium.

“We stopped short,” Crews said. “It only counts if you get it done.”

After making a habit of it most of the season, the Millionaires almost added another improbable comeback to their resume. Down by three scores late in the first half, the Millionaires came back to cut the lead to 21-7 on Jackson’s 7-yard run with a little over a minute remaining. Williamsport received the second-half kickoff and went on a 12-play, 60 yard drive that was capped by Blaze McClements’ 3-yard run.

The defense held strong on the ensuing drive as Jamaire Burget forced the Cougars first punt with his third-down sack.

Williamsport took that punt and went on a 14-play, 82-yard drive, punctuated by a nice 8-yard slant pass from Joe Fagnano to Tanner Esposito on 3rd-down to tie the game at 21.

On the next three offensive series, Williamsport had a 3-and-out, an interception in the end zone and a turnover on downs from the Hazleton 25. When having the ball inside the Hazleton 30, Williamsport was just 4-for-8 on scoring opportunities as it scored four touchdowns, had three turnover on downs and an interception.

“Everything counts. Everything counts and we let too many of the little things get away from us and they turned into big things,” Crews said. “We had opportunities to put the game away after the comeback, but hey, it would be nice not to be down.”

Williamsport rallied due to running ability of Jackson (137 yards), McClements (59 yards) and Fagnano (96 yards). The Millionaires gained 308 yards on the ground, most of that coming in the second half.

“Latrelle ran the ball hard. He picked up some big first downs for us, made some nice cuts for us and got north-south. Both backs ran hard, Blaze too,” Crews said. “They did a good job of getting north-south and keeping their legs going and moving the pile. We, for the few possessions we had in the first half limited their possessions. Credit to them, the Hazleton teams we played in the past found ways to lose. This team found a way to win.”

The defense also made nice second-half adjustments and after Ryan Wolk completed 10-of-11 passes in the first half for 150 yards, he completed just 2-of-8 passes in the second half, though one of those completions was a 73-yard touchdown to Damon Horton on 3rd-and-8 with 3:56 left in the game.