By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
PECKVILLE – The 86th annual Dream Game was one of many sporting events that could never be played in 2020, falling victim to the coronavirus pandemic.
The County and City combined Wednesday night to provide a game worth waiting for on the triumphant return of the Scranton Lions Club-sponsored all-star game for recent Lackawanna Football Conference graduates.
Western Wayne’s Zane Janiszewski and Delaware Valley’s Mark Callanan scored two touchdowns each and the County held off a City rally for a 31-29 victory before a paid crowd of 7,467 at John Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The efforts of Janiszewski and Callanan allowed the County to overcome the most prolific passing combination in the storied history of the game.
West Scranton’s Cayden Merrifield and North Pocono’s Ryan Dolphin set records in the loss.
Merrifield completed 15 of 27 passes for 362 yards and 3 touchdowns. Most of those yards came after he scrambled to buy additional time.
Dolphin adjusted to those scrambles and caught 10 passes for 202 yards and a score.
The last Merrifield-to-Dolphin connection was good for 57 yards in the final minute and gave the City a chance at the game-winning field goal only to have it go wide left from 33 yards out with 13.5 seconds remaining.
Janiszewski provided the thunder and Callanan the lightning that allowed the County to weather the storm created by the City passing attack.
“We were up by two touchdowns and I thought it was over then,” Callanan said. “They fought really hard. They did not give up and, honestly, it was a really tough game.”
Janiszewski threatened to take over with his brutish running in a game that ultimately featured three lead changes. He finished with 23 carries for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with a 72-yard kickoff return and a sack among his 4 tackles.
Callanan scored on the last plays of the second and third quarters. His 75-yard interception return as the second-quarter clock ran out gave the County its first lead, 12-7, at the half. His 28-yard touchdown reception from Riverside’s Johnny Gilchrist was part of his 4 receptions for 92 yards.
The City scored first on Merrifield’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Scranton Prep’s Ryan McAndrew with 8:22 left in the half.
Janiszewski returned the ensuing kickoff 72 yards, then scored on a 5-yard run to close within 7-6 just 1:29 later. His 9-yard run was the third straight County touchdown and created the biggest lead, 18-7, with 4:00 left in the third quarter.
Merrifield ran for a 3-yard touchdown and hit Scranton Prep’s Max Mulligan with the two-point pass to reduce the deficit to a field goal, 18-15.
The Gilchrist-to-Callanan touchdown made it 25-15 going to the fourth quarter.
Merrifield then threw for 236 yards in the fourth quarter, lifting the City into the lead at one point.
Merrifield found Scranton Prep’s Vito Gianello for an 85-yard touchdown, then Dolphin for 24 yards and a 29-25 lead with 7:17 left.
The lead lasted 26 seconds.
Delaware Valley’s Aiden Oliver hit Old Forge’s Mike DiGregorio for 56 yards and the game-winning scorer.
The County held the City on downs at the 45, then survived the last-minute field goal attempt to cut the City advantage in the series to 42-40-4.
MORE TO COME
Return to this website over the next 24 hours for much more coverage of the 87th annual Dream Game.