By Spencer Decker, NEPASportsNation.com Student Journalist
CARBONDALE – Carbondale took advantage of a fumbled kickoff to put two scores together before halftime, forcing a tie with visiting Mid Valley.
The Spartans, however, made sure the host Chargers could not get anything to work in the second half while scoring 27 points to come away with a 47-20, Lackawanna Football Conference Division 3 victory Thursday night.
Cameron Riccardo went 12-for-18 for 189 yards and 3 touchdowns passing to lead the Mid Valley offense.
Devin Ayala finished with 17 carries for 139 yards and 2 of his 3 touchdowns on the ground. Ayala ran for 114 of his yards and scored on both a run and a pass reception while the Spartans were pulling away in the second half.
Carbondale got off to a rough start, with a penalty leading to second-and-14 and a fumble that Mid Valley linebacker Jaydon Winters recovered at the 27.
The Spartans took advantage of the recovery and scored in four plays, capped by a 7-run touchdown run by Ayala.
Carbondale continued its early offensive struggles, gaining just one yard before punting after three plays.
Mid Valley stalled after a 21-yard, Riccardo-to-Zach Popko pass.
Carbondale then got its offense going and drove 84 yards for its first score.
On third-and-short, Guy Mushow hit Logan Wormuth, open in blown coverage, for a 43-yard gain.
Vincent DePalma finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown, but a missed extra point left Mid Valley in front, 7-6.
Mid Valley took a 13-6 lead at the quarter by going to the air and answering with a 57-yard touchdown pass from Riccardo to Jayson Lowe.
The Spartans forced a punt, took over at the Chargers 35 and continued to share the ball while scoring in just two plays.
Ayala ran for 21 yards, then Riccardo passed to Kyle Marcinkevich for 14 yards and a 20-6 lead.
Carbondale then began the rally that forced the halftime tie.
The Chargers drove 70 yards in an 11-play drive that consisted of two fourth-down conversions. DePalma capped it with a 6-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to seven.
When Mid Valley fumbled on the kickoff, Carbondale recovered at the Spartans 36.
DePalma’s 10-yard run on third down set up Mushow’s 9-yard screen pass to Davon Reams for the tying touchdown.
DePalma had 80 of his 110 rushing yards and both of his touchdowns during the first half to lead the Carbondale offense.
Mid Valley got the ball to start the second half and slammed on the gas pedal.
Ayala got it started with a 24-yard run into Carbondale territory and, following penalties, added a 25-yard run before scoring from the 5.
Things got sloppy for Carbondale from there.
Following penalties and a failed attempt to convert fourth-and-25, the Chargers gave the ball over to the Spartans at the Carbondale 41.
Ayala caught a 21-yard pass, then a 6-yarder for a touchdown.
Mid Valley went to one of its big linemen, Josh Angelo, in the backfield to run for the two-point conversion and take a 35-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
Carbondale fumbled and Mid Valley once again took over in Chargers territory, this time at the 45.
Popko took over the running duties and went up the middle for touchdowns of 2 and 11 yards.
Both teams move on to the playoffs.
Carbondale (5-5) could be without Reams, the team’s second-leading rusher, who was injured in the game. Official pairings are not finalized, but the Chargers appear to be headed to a game at Wyoming Valley Conference Class 3A Division champion Wyoming Area (8-1) in the District 2 Class 3A quarterfinals.
Mid Valley gave itself a chance to share the LFC Division 3 title three ways by finishing 3-1, but Lakeland’s late score to defeat Dunmore, 21-17, prevented the Spartans from getting the help they needed.
By going 8-2 overall, the Spartans landed a home field in Class 3A. Their most likely opponent is Western Wayne, with Lake-Lehman also a possibility when final ratings are determined.