By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
SCRANTON – Billy Maloney ran for 170 yards and passed for the winning touchdown Friday night, rallying Scranton past Wilkes-Barre Area, 25-22, in a non-league, high school football opener.
Maloney was busy after Wilkes-Barre Area moved in front, 22-18, on Mekhi Nelson’s second touchdown, an 8-yard run with 9:02 left.
In the time that remained, Maloney hit 3 of 4 passes for 43 yards and ran for 63 yards.
“I just wanted to go out and do as much as I possibly could,” said Maloney, a junior making his first start at quarterback. “If I had to run, I’d run. If I had to pass, I’d pass.”
Maloney threw 31 yards to Donato Stepney on the first play after Nelson’s go-ahead score. He ran 22 yards to convert a third-and-seven, then hit Izzy Williams for the game-winner on a 3-yard slant pass on fourth-and-goal with 4:08 left.
“The guys did a great job executing the play calls all the way down the field,” Scranton coach Steve Shumbres said of the game-winning, 10-play, 80-yard drive. “Billy made a great effort on that last play and it was a great catch in the end zone by Izzy Williams.”
Nelson’s 34-yard kickoff return and a 15-yard penalty on Scranton allowed Wilkes-Barre Area to get to the 27 before its late threat fizzled.
Matt Shilling’s third-down sack helped force the Wolfpack into fourth-and-15 where it threw incomplete.
Maloney then assured the Knights of being able to run out the clock when he broke off a 38-yard run on second down.
The teams were tied 15-15 at halftime.
Wilkes-Barre Area freshman quarterback Jack Howe passed 5 yards to Nelson in the first quarter and 33 yards to Naquan Johnson in the second for leads.
Maloney ran 22 yards to tie the game on the first play of the second quarter and Donovan Laybourn-Boddie tied it again with a 6-yard run and two-point conversion.
Scranton held Wilkes-Barre Area to 14 yards and no first downs in the third quarter while taking an 18-15 lead on a 20-yard field goal by Keegan Hughes.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” Wilkes-Barre Area coach Ciro Cinti said. “I thought out special teams let us down.”
Scranton kept Wilkes-Barre Area pinned in its end to begin the second half, forcing punts, then starting third-quarter drives from the Wolfpack 24 and 44.
Maloney’s 37-yard quarterback draw set up the go-ahead field goal.
Nelson carried 13 times for 87 yards and Johnson caught 3passes for 64 yards for the Wolfpack.
Johnson forced and recovered a fumble at the Scranton 6 to set up the game’s first score.