NEPA Sports Nation

Cougars show many ways to score

Pictured above: Connor Hilling

By Tom Robinson,

YATESVILLE – Valley View showed Friday night that it was equally adept at scoring points with a painfully slow approach and with one that was shockingly fast.

The Cougars went ahead to stay when the offense used 12 plays and 6:25 off the clock to move 33 yards for the second-quarter score in a 40-12, non-league football victory at Charley Trippi Stadium.

They needed just 15 seconds to score the first time they touched the ball in the second half.

And, anyone who has ever put a stopwatch to a Connor Hilling sprint in track season knows that only about half that time was used to cover the 75 yards he raced down the sideline on that touchdown. The rest went to getting the state medalist sprinter the ball, getting him to the outside and having him turn the corner.

From there, Hilling simply ran past any defender who appeared to have a shot at him. His burst down the left side opened a 27-6 lead just four minutes into the third quarter of a game that was tied, 6-6, with less than five minutes remaining in the half.

“I’ve been waiting all year to break one,” Hilling said. “I broke couple last week, but didn’t get in the end zone on a 63-yard run, so today I cut it back.

“I smelled it coming out of half. Our O-Line smelled it. (Fullback) Preston Reed smelled it. This team’s really starting to grow.”

The first of the scores in that game-changing, nine-minute stretch had been the result of a much more methodical pace.

Valley View forced Pittston Area to punt out of its end zone and took over at the Patriots 33.

The Cougars worked their way to the end zone in 12 plays, only one of them covering more than 5 yards. Adam Howanitz hit Hilling on a 12-yard pass, the Cougars were aided by a 15-yard late hit by the Patriots and Hilling ran for four yards on a fourth-and-three.

The score came when Howanitz passed to Taheed Jewell on fourth-and-goal from the 5.

Valley View’s Adam Howanitz

Just as Valley View showed variety in the length of its scoring drives, Howanitz and the passing game showed they could take different routes to the end zone, throwing for first-half scores on short, medium and long-range passes.

The long-range throw came on the game’s third play, covering 56 yards to A.J. Kucharski after Hilling had opened the game with two runs for a first down.

“What’s nice about our offense is that we really can do anything at any time,” Howanitz said. “It was one of things where we came out, we liked the look. We threw A.J. Kucharski in at tight end and we ran the play.

“I thought he was a little too open. I was a little shocked at how open he was. I got it to him and he did the rest.”

Howanitz’s next attempt was incomplete, but he then hit his remaining seven, finishing 8-for-9 for 127 yards and 3 scores.

The last touchdown pass came when Valley View again took advantage of field position.

Kucharski’s fumble recovery set up the Cougars at the Patriots 44.

On third-and-six from the 25, Howanitz found Jewell coming across the field for a 25-yard touchdown with 1:14 left in the half.

Pittston Area twice answered Valley View scores with one of its own, but the Cougars defense also held the Patriots without a first down on five of their possessions – three-and-outs four times and on Jalliw Ferrer’s 31-yard interception return to close the scoring.

The Patriots tied it up on their first possession when Drew DeLucca went 4-for-4 for 65 yards, but the Cougars limited him to 18 yards the rest of the game.

DeLucca hit Kevin Lockett for 36 yards on Pittston Area’s first play, then found Robby Barbieri and A.J. Scialpi for a pair of third-down conversions to set up Harry Pugliese’s tying 3-yard touchdown run.

Pittston Area also responded to Hilling’s first touchdown.

Pugliese returned the kickoff 31 yards. David Sudo, who led the Pittston Area offense with 67 yards on 7 carries, then had runs of 32, 2 and 19 yards to cover the remaining distance in 3 plays.

“I liked the fact that we came back in the second half and put a drive together and had a score,” Pittston Area coach Nick Barbieri said, “but, that’s a good football team. That’s probably the best team we’re going to see the rest of the way.”

Hilling was not done yet. His 114-yard second half and 169-yard game included 5 carries for 34 yards on a drive that covered 5:21, beginning in the third quarter and carrying into the fourth.

“They’ve got a ton of weapons,” Barbieri said. “ … You focus on one thing and they hit you with another.”

Hilling was the focus of much of the Pittston Area defensive attention in the first half while Jewell was catching two touchdown passes. Hilling’s runs provided two scores in the second half, completing the last scoring drive with an 8-yard run.

“Taheed and Adam are doing a great job making things easier for me,” Hilling said. “I know nobody recognizes it, but Preston Reed’s fullback runs are awesome. Everything’s opening up for me.

“I’m opening it up for them and this offensive line is really starting to grind it out.”

The line, led by Steven Halloran, also was effective on defense, holding Pittston Area to nine first-half rushing yards.

Halloran finished with six tackles, including three for losses, and four assists.

The win was the fourth straight for Valley View (4-1 overall).

Both teams are 1-0 in their divisions with nothing but divisional play in the second half of the regular-season schedule and each looking like a contender with its play to date.

The Cougars return to Lackawanna Football Conference Division 1 action while the Patriots (2-3) go to work on their first season in Division 2 of the Wyoming Valley Conference.

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