By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
DUNMORE – Devin Ayala ran for more than 100 yards and scored twice in the first 14:11 of Saturday’s non-league game between Lackawanna Football Conference members.
He was even more efficient in the second half, surpassing 100 yards and scoring twice in 13:33 before sitting down for the day after helping Mid Valley put away its latest victory.
Ayala finished with 234 yards and 4 touchdowns on 21 carries while leading the Spartans to a 42-6 victory over host Holy Cross in a game between teams that started the day with 3-1 records.
“We didn’t start out as strong as we thought we would,” Ayala said. “ … Holy Cross is definitely a lot stronger than they’ve been in the past.”
Mid Valley dominated at the line of scrimmage and also got a strong effort out of quarterback Cameron Riccardo.
Riccardo ran for 62 yards and 2 touchdowns on 7 carries while completing 8 of 13 passes for 92 yards.
The win was the fourth straight for Mid Valley, which lost only in the opener to unbeaten Old Forge and is averaging 41.6 points per game.
The Spartans racked up huge statistical advantages. They led in first downs, 24-7; rushing yards, 358-90; passing yards, 97-40; and total offense, 455-130.
Mid Valley limited Holy Cross to 37 rushing yards on 29 carries through three quarters.
Riccardo drove the Spartans down the field on the opening possession. He completed all 3 of his passes for 37 yards and also had a 7-yard run to help set up Ayala’s 5-yard touchdown run for a 6-0 lead with 7:32 left in the first quarter.
Holy Cross held the ball for eight minutes, into the second quarter, with the help of a roughing-the-punter penalty.
Jordan Chmielewski came up with a fourth-down stop at the 15 with an assist from Josh Angelo, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior guard/defensive tackle who took over the game up front.
Ayala started the 85-yard scoring drive with two consecutive 15-yard runs, then went through a big hole off the left side and broke a tackle on the way to a 53-yard touchdown run.
Zach Popko’s 31-yard punt return to the 15 set up the third Mid Valley score in three possessions to begin the game.
Riccardo threw a 14-yard pass to Jaden Carroll to the 1 and Riccardo scored from there on the next play to make it 20-0 with 7:56 left in the half.
Quarterback Nate Cobley twice completed fourth-down passes as the Crusaders drove 71 yards in 10 plays for their only score.
Cobley’s 9-yard run cut the deficit to 20-6 at halftime.
Mid Valley threatened in the 1:39 it had left, but twice had touchdowns called back in the final 22 seconds of the half.
“One thing that killed us was penalties,” Ayala said. “That’s something we’re going to have to clean up if we want to go far as we get further into the season.”
The teams traded interceptions on consecutive plays midway through the third quarter – Sean Herbert for Holy Cross and Jayson Lowe for Mid Valley – before the Spartans scored three times in 6:20 to break the game open.
“The 14-point lead, I was not really comfortable,” Mid Valley coach Stan Yanoski said. “We had to make some adjustments at halftime with them coming out with the ball. I thought we were coming off the ball a little high and Holy Cross was moving us a little bit.”
Ayala carried 5 times for 43 yards before Riccardo scrambled in for a 14-yard touchdown with 4:47 left in the third.
Angelo had a tackle for loss, then a sack on the next two possessions to help get the ball back with the good field position the Spartans used to add two more quick scores.
“We knew we had to really play sound fundamental defense and offense,” Yanoski said. “In the second half, our line just kind of took over and dominated both lines of scrimmage.
“You win the games up front.”
Ayala scored on a 2-yard run with 1:19 left in the third and an 8-yarder 1:33 into the fourth. He had consecutive runs of 18 and 24 yards to set up the final touchdown.
Angelo finished with seven tackles and four assists.
“He’s just really hard to block one-on-one,” Yanoski said.
Aiden Wolak also had a sack and another tackle for a loss for Holy Cross on the way to finishing with three tackles and eight assists.
“We’ve still got to improve,” Angelo said. “ … It means nothing because the first half of our season is just to get ready for our second half, but it feels great to be 4-1.”
Logan Tierney used a 47-yard, fourth-quarter run to finish with 84 yards on 15 carries for Holy Cross. He also had eight tackles and two assists.
In addition to the interception, Herbert had seven tackles and broke up two passes. Cameron Moczulski had four tackles, two assists and a fumble recovery.
MORE WEEK FOUR FOOTBALL COVERAGE
Delaware Valley-Abington Heights: https://nepasportsnation.com/del-valley-dominates-comets/.
Wilkes-Barre Area/Pittston Area: https://nepasportsnation.com/mcclary-shiner-lead-wolfpack/.
Friday games: https://nepasportsnation.com/fall-sports/football/.