NEPA Sports Nation

Wolfpack opens stadium with win

Mekhi Nelson made sure Wilkes-Barre Area had plenty to celebrate in its football debut at the school’s new stadium.

Nelson had his second straight 200-yard rushing game and threw a 75-yard touchdown pass Friday night as the Wolfpack rolled over visiting Wallenpaupack, 34-7, in a non-league game.

The junior speedster carried 19 times for 202 yards and 3 touchdowns. His only pass attempt accounted for the first points in stadium history, with help from receiver Naquan Johnson, just 1:03 into the game.

On third-and-eight in the opening series, Nelson received a lateral swing pass from quarterback Jake Howe. Nelson pulled up and threw down the left sideline to Johnson at the Wolfpack 45. Johnson sidestepped one defender at midfield and won the footrace down the sideline to the end zone.

The Wolfpack defense – and Nelson’s running – took it from there.

Wallenpaupack held the ball for more than 7½ minutes on its first possession, but then gained just 15 yards the rest of the first half while Wilkes-Barre Area was building a 21-0 lead.

Howie Shiner and Gannon Redding led a defensive unit that limited the Buckhorns to 153 yards total offense for the game. Each was in on 11 tackles, including making 1 of the team’s 6 sacks.

Nelson provided the game’s longest touchdown, topping his early pass when he broke off a 96-yard run midway through the second quarter. He took a pitch to the left, turned the corner and stiff-armed a potential tackler to break into the free.

After Wallenpaupack’s Michael Passenti returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to the 30, Shiner and Redding combined on the third-down sack that helped Wilkes-Barre Area hold on downs.

Johnson took a pass from Howe 32 yards, leading to Nelson’s 23-yard touchdown burst up the middle with 3:01 left in the half.

Wallenpaupack cut the deficit to 21-7 going into the fourth quarter.

Drew Keisendahl passed 28 yards to Jordan Santiago on third-and-15, then found Jake Holbert on a slant pattern for a 12-yard touchdown on foruth-and-six.

Wilkes-Barre Area answered with an all-running, 11-play, 73-yard drive to score in the opening minute of the fourth quarter on Nelson’s 3-yard run.

Davon Underwood came off the bench to take his first carry 31 yards, then score on a 17-yard touchdown for the Wolfpack with 1:58 left.

Holbert led the Wallenpaupack offense with 4 catches for 47 yards.

Xaiden Schock made eight tackles and assisted on nine others to lead the Buckhorns defense.

Wilkes-Barre Area improved to 2-1 with its second straight win. Wallenpaupack lost its second straight to fall to 1-2.

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