By Spencer Decker, NEPASports.com Student Journalist
SOUTH CANAAN TWP. – Lakeland put together a strong first half that it relied on to carry the Chiefs through a back-and-forth second half with host Western Wayne Friday night to emerge with a 26-21 victory in a non-league game between Lackawanna Football Conference teams.
The Chiefs opened a 14-2 lead at halftime and carried a five-point advantage into a fourth quarter in which the teams traded touchdowns, but Lakeland never lost the lead it took 2:15 into the game.
A tough battle developed in the game between teams that could match up again in the District 2 Class 3A playoffs. Lakeland bounced back from its first loss to improve to 6-1. Western Wayne fell to 3-4.
Lakeland got the scoring started early with an eight-play, 54-yard drive that resulted in an 8-yard touchdown run by Nick Mancuso.
Both teams put together long drives during the remainder of the first quarter, but after a series of penalties, both threats ended.
Western Wayne turned the ball over on downs, then forced a Lakeland punt.
The Wildcats converted a third down in the closing seconds of the first quarter and two more as the drive continued into the second quarter. Once inside the 5, however, Lakeland put up a goal-line stand, stopping the Wildcats on both third and fourth downs to take over on downs at the 3.
Western Wayne trapped Lakeland there, tackling a Chiefs back in the end zone on the first play for a safety to cut the Lakeland lead to 7-2.
Lakeland forced a three-and-out following the free kick, then drove 80 yards in just 6 plays.
Mancuso caught a Dominico Spataro pass for 40 yards as Lakeland went 80 yards in just 6 plays. Spataro scrambled 28 yards for a touchdown to complete the first-half scoring with the Chief in front, 14-2.
Western Wayne took the kickoff and drove down the field to start the second half.
Luke Janiszewski ran for a fourth-down conversion that led to Frankie Leyshon’s quarterback keeper for a 1-yard touchdown.
With the gap cut to 14-9, Western Wayne forced Lakeland into a third-and-23 that resulted in a Jaiden DeRosa interception.
The Wildcats could not take advantage of the turnover and punted the ball away, leading to the first of two times that Lakeland took a two-score lead in the fourth quarter.
Lacota Dippre turned a sideline catch into a 12-yard gain to the 1 on fourth-and-11. Spataro scored from there for the touchdown that gave the Chiefs a 20-9 lead.
The Chiefs found themselves in a dogfight with the Wildcats the rest of the way.
Sean Owens brought the Wildcats within five for the second of three times in the second half on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Leyshon.
With Western Wayne within striking distance, Lakeland went back to the air. Spataro hit five straight passes in a 57-yard scoring drive, finding Mancuso for a 6-yard touchdown to make it 26-15 with 7:15 left.
The Wildcats were not finished yet.
They went 55 yards in 6 plays and a couple penalties to score on a short Leyshon run. A two-point attempt to get within a field goal was no good.
To complete the comeback, the Wildcats needed the ball back. They forced third-and-eight, but the Chiefs went back to a play Western Wayne could not stop throughout the game, a screen to Dippre for 12 yards, which combined with a 15-yard penalty to pull the ball into the Red Zone where the game ended two plays later.
Spataro accounted for three touchdowns while going over 100 yards both rushing and passing. He was 13-for-22 for 171 yards passing while rushing for 110 yards on 13 carries.
Janiszewski led Western Wayne with 136 yards on 27 carries before leaving the game with an apparent leg injury in the third quarter.