Williamsport at Hazleton
Williamsport PPG–26.3, YPG–297; PPA–35, YPA–495
Williamsport facts: The Millionaires and Hazleton are playing for the fifth time in three seasons and have played twice each in the past two years. Both games were thrillers last season with Williamsport rallying from a 12-point second-half deficit and winning at Hazleton, 28-26. The rematch was equally exciting and Williamsport tied the game in the fourth quarter after trailing by 21 but lost, 28-27 in the District 2-4 Class AAAAAA semifinals. That result, as well as a two-game losing streak, shoud have the Millionaires excited to play tonight. Williamsport showed improvement against Berwick last week, becoming the first team to score against it. The Millionaires trailed by just four at halftime but wore down late in a 41-17 loss. The defense has been gouged and surrendered 327 rushing yards. Hazleton topped 200 rushing yards in both games against Williamsport last season. Marcus Simmons provided a big goal-line interception but a 51-yard third-quarter touchdown pass on a third-and-long changed the game’s complexion. All-state running back Treyson Potts returned from an injury last week, totaling 43 yards and a touchdown and returning a punt for a touchdown. A young offensive line has struggled to open running lanes the past two weeks and if that unit progresses, this offense becomes mighty explosive. Quarterback Joe Fagnano threw for 128 yards and two touchdowns against Berwick and played two excellent games against Halzeton a year ago when he threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns. Simmons caught 15 passes in those games and totaled 151 yards and a touchdown in a season-opening win against Central Mountain. He also broke the program single-season record for receptions with 71 last fall. Williamsport swept the season series from Hazleton in 2016, beating it in the district semifinals en route to its first championship since 1995. The winner of tonight’s game will be no worse than in a tie for first in the District 2 standings.
Williamsport player to watch–Tucker Kreisher: The senior center is a three-year starting offensive lineman and one of the area’s best. He is doing his best to help the younger players progress and if Kreisher and this unit mesh as the season continues, Williamsport once again will likely look explosive.
Hazleton PPG–25.3, YPG–340.7; PPA–24, YPA–354.3
Hazleton facts: The Cougars made a five-win improvement last season and reached the district final, losing to Delaware Valley. Hazleton opened its season with a 35-7 win against Pottsville but lost to undefeated Wyoming Valley West, 21-20 and undefeated Dallas, 44-21 the past two weeks. Hazleton was down 28-21 at halftime against Dallas before the Mountaineers pulled away. Hazleton features an explosive and balanced offense. Quarterback Sparky Wolk is a three-year starter who has thrown for 3,942 career yards and 32 touchdowns. Wolk threw for a program-record 2,222 yards a year ago and has 516 this season. Three-year starter David Smith and fellow senior Jacob Hunsinger are Wolk’s favorite targets. Smith has 89 career catches, along with 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns. Jacob Hunsinger leads Hazleton in receiving this season with 12 catches, 198 yards and a touchdown. He caught seven passes last week at Dallas. Running back Damon Horton is a dual threat and is having a big senior season. Horton has run for 398 yards and seven touchdowns. He has topped 100 yards and scored at least two touchdowns in all three games. Horton also is a receiving threat who has seven catches for 143 yards and a touchdown. Hazleton’s defense played well the first week but has struggled the last two weeks and Dallas topped 400 yards against it.
Hazleton player to watch–Matt Fisher: It is not often a defensive back records a three-sack game but that is exactly what Fisher did against Pottsville. He was a force in that game, making four tackles for loss, finishing with seven tackles and breaking up a pass.
Outlook: This again could be the first of two games these teams play against each other and it should again be entertaining. Both offenses have the potential to light it up, but for Williamsport to win it has to slow down the run and keep its offense from being on the sideline for long stretches.
–by CHRIS MASSE