Williamsport rallies late and wins thriller against Wilkes-Barre Area
KINGSTON–The rain poured down throughout the second half. So did the penalties.
But Williamsport’s heads never went down. The Millionaires kept fighting, kept believing. The defense made repeated big stops and at the perfect time, the offense came together and produced its drive of the year.
Williamsport earned Saturday’s win against Wilkes-Barre area the hard way. Maybe is that is why it was so satisfying.
The defense forced five turnovers and Williamsport ran 11 straight times on a game-winning 55-yard drive as George Whaley’s 4-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds remaining proved the difference in a 14-7 victory at Wyoming Valley West’s Spartan Stadium. Elijah Frierson intercepted two passes, the defense did not allow a second-half point and Whaley produced two scores as Williamsport (5-4) proved again it has every bit the toughness to match its talent while winning its second straight game.
“That positive mindset never left us. We learned from previous moments that if we put our heads down we tend to not focus and not play as a team,” running back Damier Sams-Glover said after playing a pivotal role on the game-winning drive. “We chose to keep playing and end the game with all heart.”
“I’m real proud of our guys for coming together as a team. It really shows what kind of team we are,” two-way lineman Dade Splain, a difference-maker on both sides of the ball, said. “We’re family, so we have to come together in the hard times to make the best times.”
Williamsport doing so gave it a shot at winning a championship next Friday at Millionaire Stadium. The Millionaires and Hazleton both are undefeated in Wyoming Valley Conference play and essentially will play a league championship game. Williamsport also moved ahead of State College and Altoona in the District 2-6 Class AAAAAA playoff standings. The top seed there receives a bye into the championship.
The way Williamsport created those opportunities is what stood out Saturday. The Millionaires lost three turnovers and seven holding penalties often hurt what looked like promising drives, especially in the third quarter when one erased a George Whaley go-ahead touchdown run. Still, Williamsport never blinked.
The defense put up a wall, not allowing a second-half point. And when it mattered most, the offense shined bright through all the dark clouds, rain and mistakes.
“It’s refreshing to see them come together under difficult circumstances and they didn’t drop their heads. We didn’t play a perfect game but we made the most out of the game as it was called,” Williamsport coach Chuck Crews said. “This feels really good to see that they can just fight on and fight on.”
Williamsport produced a masterful, balanced 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive on its opening possession with George Whaley finding Frankie Morrone for an 18-yard touchdown. The offense, however, bogged down from there, Wilkes-Barre tied the game late in the first half and it remained that way when Williamsport took over at its own 45-yard line with 4 minutes, 47 seconds left. A lot went wrong on previous possessions, but Williamsport made it all right with this gutsy drive.
Splain, Charles Crews, Joel Feleppa, Connor Adkins and Blake Butler took over up front and Williamsport ran 11 straight times. Sams-Glover and George and Lajear Whaley ran hard and everything started falling into place.
“We just had to score. We just had to come together as a team. Not to sound vain, but we know we can run the ball so we just had to run the ball and get into the end zone and win this game,” Splain said. “I like that the coaches trust us to know that we can put the ball in the endzone.”
George Whaley (130 passing yards, 38 rushing) ran for seven yards on the first play before gaining 11 two plays later on a third-and-3. Sams-Glover may have made the key play on the drive seconds later when he bounced off a would-be tackler at the line of scrimmage, lowered his shoulders and gained 11 yards, taking the ball to the 26-yard line.
“After I got hit I saw a hole open up so I just got what I could. That gave us a boost of momentum,” said Sams-Glover, who gained 21 yards against his teammates from five years ago on that final drive. “Knowing I was playing against former teammates I had to show them what I could do.”
He did a lot, and Sams-Glover gained eight yards on the next two carries before three straight Lajear Whaley four-yard runs set up a third-and-two at the 6-yard line. Sams-Glover converted that with a two-yard run and Wilkes-Barre took its final timeout with the ball at the 4 and just 33 seconds remaining. Out of the timeout, George Whaley faked a handoff, sidestepped a blitzer in the backfield and burst up the middle for the game-winning score.
The Millionaires burned all but the final 28 seconds off the clock and when Roman Morrone tackled the ensuing kick returner at the 24-yard line, Wilkes-Barre was in a near hopeless situation. Two incompletions followed before a fumbled snap closed out one of Williamsport’s hardest-fought wins this year.
“That’s the way we needed to seal the game,” Chuck Crews said. “We put it in a position where we scored and they didn’t have enough time to do anything to come back.”
Williamsport’s relentless defense set the stage for that game-winning drive, never buckling no matter the circumstances. The Millionaires turned the ball over on their first three second-half possessions but the defense held every time. Playing well at all three levels, Williamsport surrendered just 72 second-half yards on six possessions and forced three of Wilkes-Barre’s five turnovers during the final 24 minutes.
Frierson provided blanket coverage and his interception of a 4-yard pass in the end zone stopped a first-quarter Wolfpack march. Frierson intercepted another pass in the third quarter, Sebastian Robinson recovered a fumble as did Nariq Burks and Alonzo Rice made one of the game’s biggest plays. Wilkes-Barre moved to Williamsport’s 38-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but Rice stopped the drive there, stripping the ball-carrier before Robinson recovered the fumble.
Roman Morrone and Riley Bower each made nine tackles and the Millionaires defended the turf like an angry dog guarding his bone. Williamsport skillfully rotated in linemen who surged throughout the game and the Millionaires appeared as strong at the end of the game as they did when it started. The Wolfpack had some success running the ball in the first half and Howie Shiner’s 15-yard touchdown tied the game 7-7. It was tough sledding from there and Williamsport surrendered just 48 yards on 20 second-half carries.
“We got some good pressures on the quarterback and some good hits. It was just doing our jobs,” Splain said. “As coach Crews says, “There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance,’ but we had to let them know they weren’t touching the endzone more than once.”
Williamsport quickly found the end zone on its opening possession. George Whaley went 3 for 3 on the 70-yard drive and a 19-yard Santino White catch sparked it. Following a sack, Whaley stepped up in the pocket on third-and-goal from the 18 and threw a rocket which Morrone caught in the middle of the end zone. It looked like a continuation of last week’s game when the Millionaires routed Valley West, 40-7 before times quickly turned tougher.
But so did Williamsport.
“We’re starting to come together,” Splain said. “We’re taking care of each other and if we keep doing that, we’ll be all right.”
Williamsport 14, Wilkes-Barre Area 7
Williamsport 7 0 0 7–14
WB-Area 0 7 0 0–7
Wi–Frankie Morrone 18 pass from George Whaley (Connor Poole kick), 4:39
WB–Howie Shiner 15 run (Evan Corcoran kick), 1:23
Wi–Whaley 4 run (Poole kick), :28
TEAM STATISTICS Wi WB
First Downs 16 11
Rushes-yards 37-144 38-126
Passing yards 130 103
Total yards 274 229
Comp-Att-Int 7-15-1 9-17-2
Fumbles-lost 2-2 4-3
Penalties-yards 12-99 7-68
RUSHING: Williamsport, Lajear Whaley 18-76; George Whaley 9-38, TD; Damier Sams-Glover 7-28; Jamaire Harden 2-3; DJ Greene 1-(-1). Wilkes-Barre, Howie Shiner 21-94, TD; Javant McClary 10-24; Mekhi Nelson 6-7; Jace John 1-1.
PASSING: Williamsport, G. Whaley 7-14-0, 130 yards, TD; Greene 0-1-1. Wilkes-Barre, McClary 9-17-2, 103 yards.
RECEIVING: Williamsport, Harden 3-63; Frankie Morrone 3-48, TD; Santino White 1-19. Wilkes-Barre, Naquan Johnson 3-35; Sincere Williams 2-53; Nelson 2-(-3); Anthony Nguyen 1-14; John 1-4.
INTERCEPTIONS: Williamsport, Elijah Frierson 2. Wilkes-Barre, Williams.
RECORDS: Williamsport 5-4. Wilkes-Barre 4-5.