By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
KINGSTON – Holding Isaiah Cobb to fewer than three yards proved to be a difficult task Saturday afternoon.
But, that’s exactly what the Wilkes-Barre Area Wolfpack defense managed to do on two-point conversion attempts twice in the final nine minutes.
When five Wolfpack defenders got their hands on Cobb to eventually bring him down inches short of the goal line with 12 seconds left, they preserved a 27-25 victory in the Battle for the Bridge, a Wyoming Valley Conference Class 6A/5A Division rivalry game played at Spartan Stadium.
Cobb carried 32 times in the game for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns. The powerful sophomore tailback gained at least 3 yards 25 times and one of the times he didn’t was because he only needed 2 for a touchdown.
The two defensive stops combined with touchdowns from four different players, including Steve Simko’s go-ahead, 75-yard kickoff return late in the third quarter, to give the Wolfpack its second straight win since a three-game losing streak.
When Wyoming Valley West answered SImko’s kickoff return with a score, the Spartans unsuccessfully went for the go-ahead, two-point conversion with 8:40 to play.
The second conversion stop kept the Wolfpack from forcing overtime.
Cobb got Wyoming Valley West off to a fast start, carrying on the team’s first 10 plays to produce a touchdown and put the Spartans into Wolfpack territory. His 11th carry, on the last play of the first quarter, gave him 82 yards in the game and more than 1,000 for the season.
When Cobb twice left the game for part of the first half, however, the Spartans stalled offensively.
Wyoming Valley West gained 329 yards on the 46 plays Cobb was in the game, but lost 27 on the 8 plays he sat out. His running plays averaged 5.6 yards, but when other Spartans carried 10 yards in losses resulted from the 11 tries.
Conner Olisewski, who also caught 3 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, intercepted on Wilkes-Barre Area’s third offensive play and returned it 17 yards to the 29.
Cobb’s first six runs covered that distance, including a 2-yard touchdown for a 6-0 lead with 8:12 left in the quarter.
Javon Goodwin got behind the Spartans defense to pull in a 54-yard pass from Javant McClary two plays later. Mekhi Nelson took it from there, scoring on a 3-yard run to put the Wolfpack in front, 7-6, and erase its only deficit of the day.
Gabe Saracino forced a fumble that Nyquon Hollman recovered at the Wyoming Valley West 38 with 54 seconds left in the second quarter, giving Wilkes-Barre Area time to add to its lead before halftime.
McClary passed to Nelson for 20 yards on the first play, ran 11 yards for another first down, then rolled right and hit Anthony Nguyen with a 7-yard touchdown pass. Olisewski blocked the kick, but the Wolfpack took a 13-6 lead into halftime.
Wyoming Valley West’s first pass completion, with four minutes left in the third quarter, led to the tying score.
Olisewski came back on an underthrown pass on a fly pattern, made the catch and maneuvered across the field for a 63-yard gain to set up Cobb’s 4-yard touchdown run.
The tie lasted 13 seconds, the length of time it took Simko to make his way through the 75-yard kickoff return. Evan Corcoran provided the second of what proved to be three important extra-point kicks and the Wolfpack took a 20-13 lead into the fourth quarter.
Cobb carried on the last two plays of the third quarter and the first seven of the fourth, stretching the ball over the pylon for a 5-yard touchdown with 8:40 left.
The Wolfpack protected its one-point lead then drove 50 yards in 11 plays to open a 27-19 lead with 1:51 left.
Howie Shiner, the team’s top rusher with 77 yards on 15 carries, converted a fourth-and-one and a third-and-two before scoring from the 2.
Luke Buss completed 15- and 13-yard passes before hitting Olisewski in the back of the end zone with a 12-yarder with 12 seconds left to set up the chance to go for the tie.
The Wolfpack defense came through to preserve the victory and send the team home with the bridge trophy.
Fred White and Jace John each had a sack and another tackle for a loss. White had nine tackles and two losses. John had six tackles, an assist and a broken-up pass.
Both teams are 3-3. The Wyoming Valley West losses have come by one point (in overtime), two points and three points.
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