By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
PECKVILLE – Valley View and Crestwood had been down this road five weeks earlier.
And, they arrived at the same destination – a 38-7 victory by Valley View.
This time, the stakes were raised, with top-seeded Valley View advancing to the District 2 Class 4A football semifinals and officially ending Crestwood’s reign as champion.
Connor Hilling surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the season while running for 2 touchdowns; Zack Rudalavage led a defense that shut out the Comets until the last 2 minutes; Jordan Rebar and Dylan Walsh combined to produce a defensive touchdown; and Collin Skeen returned a punt 65 yards to highlight a night of big plays.
It all added up to the same final score as the regular-season meeting in which the Cougars (10-1) lost starting quarterback Adam Howanitz to a season-ending knee injury.
The win sends the Cougars into a semifinal showdown of two of District 2’s most storied programs when it hosts Berwick Friday at John Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Despite kicking off to begin the game the Cougars scored twice in the first 3:04 for a 14-0 lead.
An overwhelming defensive performance made that happen.
“I thought we did a nice job,” Valley View coach George Howanitz said of his team’s performance a week after having its perfect record ruined in a 17-10 loss to Scranton Prep for the Lackawanna Football Conference Division 2 title. “We tackled really well. Against Prep, we didn’t line up right for half the game, so I was happy the kids lined up right this week.
“We made some plays. We got a touchdown early on a scoop and score.”
After six offensive plays, Crestwood had minus-8 yards offense and had turned the ball over twice, including once that produced a defensive touchdown.
“It all comes down to stopping the run game and that’s what we did tonight,” said Rudalavage, who got that process started with tackles for no gain and a loss on the game’s first two plays.
Dante Randle followed that up with a third-down sack.
Skeen returned the ensuing punt 12 yards, then took a swing pass from Dominic Memo 31 yards on the first play.
Hilling went 20 yards for a touchdown on the next play for a 7-0 lead with 9:09 left in the first quarter.
One play from scrimmage and 13 seconds later, the Cougars doubled their lead.
Rebar knocked the ball loose and Walsh picked it up behind the offense, giving him a head start on the pack for his 27-yard fumble return for a score.
On the second play after that, Taheed Jewell tipped a pass and Sean Mackinder intercepted.
The Cougars briefly stalled offensively, turning the ball over, then punting after a pair of penalties, but Skeen’s punt return with 9:15 left in the half provided the spark that helped put the game away early.
“The punt return pretty much ended it at that point,” coach Howanitz said. “It took away any momentum that they might have.”
Valley View moved 85 yards in 6 plays later in the quarter, with a 31-yard run by Hilling and a 42-yard touchdown by Randle for a 28-0 halftime lead.
The game reached the Mercy Rule on the opening drive of the second half when Skeen made several Comets miss while running 31 yards on a third-and-four reverse. Hilling then completed the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run around right end.
Matt Cole, who made all five extra points in the game, kicked a 37-yard field goal with 1:15 left in the third for a 38-0 lead.
Crestwood moved 76 yards for a touchdown late in the game, scoring on Ethan Shudak’s 1-yard run.
Hilling finished with 98 yards on 13 carries while Randle had 61 on 4 carries and Skeen had 41 on 5.
Valley View held Crestwood to 3 first downs and 27 yards total offense through 3 quarters.
“We just need to stick to what we do best: pound the ball and stop the run game,” Rudalavage said.
Rudalavage finished with 6 tackles, 3 of them for 11 yards in losses, along with 3 assists and a pass rush.
A.J. Kucharski had five tackles, one for a four-yard loss, two assists and a pass rush.
Rebar and Walsh each had three tackles and two assists in addition to their role in the defensive touchdown.
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