NEPA Sports Nation

Defending champion Valley View moves back into district 4A final

Pictured above: Adam Howanitz

By Tom Robinson,

PECKVILLE – Even when Valley View was not en route to another touchdown Saturday night, the Cougars offense was always on the move.

With Adam Howanitz accounting for four touchdowns and Connor Hilling scoring on both a run and a pass reception, Valley View scored five times in the first three quarters on the way to a 31-14 District 2 Class 4A football semifinal victory over visiting Dallas.

The Cougars had touchdowns on five of their first seven drives and moved inside the Dallas 40 with multiple first downs on the other two. Then, after A.J. Kucharski’s rush forced an interception by lineman Robbie Nolan, Valley View ran the last 3:02 off the clock with two more first downs to end the game in the Red Zone.

With only 2 plays of more than 18 yards, both by Hilling on a 53-yard reception and 25-yard run, Valley View still managed 408 yards of total offense and 23 first downs. That steady production allowed the Cougars to control time of possession, 30:58-17:02, including 27:24-11:45 from the time it began its second possession.

Howanitz carried 18 times for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns while hitting 9 of 18 passes for 139 yards and 2 more scores.

Hilling picked up 131 yards on 22 carries while adding 84 yards on 3 catches.

Preston Reed chipped in 48 yards on 9 carries while Taheed Jewell caught 4 passes.

Jewell also led the way defensively with eight tackles and an assist as the Cougars (10-2) landed a rematch of their 20-7, season-opening loss by earning a championship game shot at host Crestwood (11-1). Valley View is the Lackawanna Football Conference Division 1 champion while Crestwood is the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 champion.

Dallas moved the ball at times. Parker Bolesta finished with 144 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, but the Cougars kept the Mountaineers from building any type of consistency.

There were four Dallas drives that did not produce a first down and another, late in the game, that lasted just two plays before the Nolan interception.

Steven Halloran, who had three assists, and Connor Swartz, who had two, each made five tackles.

Kucharski was credited with just one tackle, but was a disruptive force blitzing from his outside linebacker position. He was in the backfield as the first Cougar to get a hand on the Mountaineers back on two of the three plays when Valley View threw Dallas for losses. He also rushed the quarterback into multiple incompletions in addition to the interception.

The game’s key trends were evident early.

Valley View forced a three-and-out to open the game and Camryn Higgins returned the punt 28 yards to the Dallas 33.

Hilling went 12 yards on the second play and 7 yards for another first down as the Cougars used 8 straight runs to drive for the first touchdown. Howanitz scored from the 1 on fourth-and-goal, but Colby Klinetob blocked the extra point to keep it at 6-0 with 6:26 left in the first quarter.

Halloran made a third-down stop for a loss on one of Kucharski’s ventures into the backfield to stop the second Dallas possession and made another third-down tackle to stop the next one.

Following a short punt, Valley View began working in the passing game during an eight-play, 59-yard scoring drive.

Howanitz hit Hilling for 18 yards on third-and-seven, then ran for 3 on third-and-three.

After passing 11 yards to Jewell, Howanitz found Dominic Memo open down the middle for a 17-yard touchdown and 12-0 lead with 6:41 left in the half.

Christopher Savkov intercepted three plays later. His apparent 28-yard touchdown return came back because of an illegal block, but the Cougars took over at the Mountaineers 20 and scored in 4 plays.

Hilling ran 13 yards on the first play and ended up scoring from the 2 to make it 18-0 with 4:31 left in the second quarter.

The Dallas offense then came to life with back-to-back carries of 23 and 43 yards by 2,000-yard rusher Bolesta.

Dylan Geskey went up the middle for the next 7 yards and the touchdown just 37 seconds after Valley View’s score.

Dallas held on downs following a measurement and some debate on the spot on a fourth-down play, stopping the Cougars at the Mountaineers 34 in the final minute and making it to the half within 18-7.

Valley View received to start the second half and scored on its first two possessions to stretch the lead to 31-7.

The Mountaineers were unable to knock Hilling down or out of bounds on a short pass to the left sideline on third-and-16 and he went 53 yards for the game’s biggest offensive play.

Valley View’s only successful conversion, a kick by Jacob Nielsen, made it 25-7 with 8:31 left in the third.

The Cougars ran seven straight times, picking up at least five yards on five of the first six plays, before Howanitz scored from the 2 in the final minute of the quarter.

Before Valley View could run away with the game, Dallas went 69 yards in 9 plays to score with 10:16 left on a 5-yard Bolesta run.

Joe Peters, who had a huge game defensively, gave Dallas one last chance, but after only kicking the extra point on the Bolesta touchdown, the Mountaineers still needed at least three scores.

Peters, who made a game-high 12 tackles and assisted 3 more, intercepted a pass in the end zone and returned it out to the 26.

Zapoticky went deep to Paczewski for 37 yards, but Nolan intercepted on the next play.

Dallas, which started 6-0, ended the season with a 9-3 record.

Valley View will try to defend its title against Crestwood, which suffered its only loss to Dallas in the second week of the season.

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