By Tom Robinson, NEPAFootball.com
PECKVILLE – The County started fast Thursday night, but in the end, it needed a pair of interceptions from Western Wayne’s Kobe Sauter to secure a 14-7 victory over the City in the 85th annual Dream Game at John F. Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Sauter’s first interception came at the County 4 late in the third quarter with the City threatening to tie after being on the verge of being blown out in the first half. His second interception, at the 20 with 3:09 remaining, ended the last City possession.
“I enjoyed the whole atmosphere,” Sauter said. “Everyone jelled really well and it was an amazing time.”
After Sauter’s second interception, the County ran out the clock to cut the City advantage in the Scranton Lions Club-sponsored game for recent graduates of Lackawanna Football Conference teams to 42-39-4.
Sauter said he just did as he was coached, watching for when the receivers reacted to the ball to decide when it was time to make his move. He joined Valley View’s Traon Jones in leading the defensive effort.
Honesdale’s Ethan Dunn, playing quarterback for the team guided by his high school coach, Mike Jurkowski, fueled the fast start.
Dunn ran for one touchdown and threw for another in the first quarter. He finished 8-for-15 while passing for 161 yards, which was more than the City managed in total offense.
The County put together a 10-play, 68-yard scoring drive on its second possession, then scored in one play after a Jones fumble recovery for a 14-0 lead.
A third straight touchdown seemed likely when the County moved to the City 1 with eight minutes left in the half. At that point, the County had a 7-0 lead in first downs and a 148-3 advantage in total offense.
With help from County miscues, the City came up with the defensive stand and the teams played on the even terms the rest of the way.
First, the County had a five-yard illegal procedure penalty on second-and-goal from the 1. Then, a holding penalty wiped out an apparent Dylan Walck, 6-yard touchdown.
The County wound up settling for the first of its two field goal attempts, both of which were wide left.
With the County cornerbacks crowding receivers at the line of scrimmage, the City managed just one first down in the first half.
The City made the County pay, however, on the second play of the second half when West Scranton’s Zakeem Vassell got behind the defense down the left sideline and North Pocono’s Donny Blaine found him with a 79-yard touchdown pass.
The City, coached by Susquehanna’s Kyle Cook, took several more deep shots in the second half when it wound up committing three of its five turnovers.
The County did not have a turnover, helping it control the ball for more than 30 of the game’s 48 minutes.
Dunn, Walck and Lakeland’s Thomas Pidgeon led the game’s firs scoring drive.
Walck pulled in a short pass from Dunn, eluded a defender on the outside and turned it into a 21-yard gain on the second play of the drive. He later ran 18 yards around right end on third-and-four and drew a late hit at the end of the play to advance the ball to the 3.
Dunn’s 22-yard pass to Pidgeon on third-and-14 had kept the drive going. The quarterback then got to the left corner on a bootleg from the 1 to open the scoring.
Valley View’s Cam Ceccotti added the first of his two extra points with 3:17 left in the first quarter.
The County scored again 39 seconds later with the help of many of the contributions by players from Valley View’s championship team who were back on their home field for one last game.
Vassell appeared to have a first down on a pass from Blaine, but as he reversed field, he wound up retreating.
Chase Combs from Valley View tracked down Vassell and forced the fumble that Jones recovered at the City 31.
The County scored from there on the next play.
Jaden Duplessis, another former Cougar, ran a deep fade route down the left side. Dunn lofted the ball over the defender in tight coverage and Duplessis went up to pull it in for the touchdown.
“It was an awesome throw,” Duplessis said. “He put it up where I needed to get it and I just went up and came down with it.”
Mason Kordish, Ceccotti and linemen Connor Judge, Kevin Duffy and Mike Sebastianelli also represented Valley View in the game, giving the Cougars eight players on the winning team.
“During the season, we all played together, we all had that brotherhood, and we just brought it over here,” Duplessis said.
Kordish was the game’s leading rusher with 79 yards on 20 carries. He was 11-for-54 in the second half, helping to limit the City comeback opportunities.
“They just kept battling, but we kept battling and we came out victorious,” Duplessis said.
Jones led the County defense in tackles with five, along with an assist. One of his tackles was for a two-yard loss and he broke up a pass in addition to the fumble recovery.
With more time on the field, North Pocono’s Dale Moore, West Scranton’s Jake Ciullo, Wallenpaupack’s Exzavier Warner and Dunmore’s George Mesko had busy nights on the City defefnse.
Moore had a game-high seven tackles with four assists.
Ciullo had six tackles, five assists and a broken-up pass.
Warner made four tackles, including two for 11 yards in losses. He also rushed the passer into an incompletion.
Mesko made five tackles and assisted five others.
BY THE NUMBERS
The County wound up with statistical leads of 16-6 in first downs, 124-59 in rushing yards, 176-97 in passing yards, 60-37 in offensive plays and 300-156 in total offense.
The City had a 153-152 advantage in total offense from the midway point in the second quarter on.
The County was 5-for-6 for 89 yards passing in the first quarter with five different receivers making catches.
Pidgeon wound up with three catches for 79 yards and Duplessis had two for 72 yards for the County.
Vassell had all three City catches for 97 yards.
The County did not commit a turnover.
Wallenpaupack’s Nick Ruggieri led the City ground game with 41 yards on 7 carries.
The game drew a paid crowd of more than 7,500.
Recently retired Dunmore coach Jack Henzes was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award prior to the game.
Retired Susquehanna coach Dick Bagnall was honored at halftime as the Scranton Lions Club Man of the Year.
Both are members of the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.