Postseason road ends for Nanticoke Area
Evan Korn - Citizens Voice

Nanticoke Area's reward for its first playoff berth of this millennium was an hour-plus bus ride to play a tough District 11 opponent.
And while a win was not in the cards, Trojans head coach Ron Bruza applauded his team's accomplishment, even in the immediate aftermath of a season-ending defeat.
Harry Hall rushed for 245 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries as Northwestern Lehigh routed Nanticoke Area, 50-21, Friday night in an Eastern Conference Class AA semifinal at Tiger Stadium.
"We played well for a long time. We really did," Bruza said. "I think things just started catching up with us, and you know what, our kids played with confidence. The breaks didn't go our way. My hat's off to Northwestern Lehigh. They have a great program.
"We lost to a better team tonight. We really did."
The Trojans (5-6) deferred the opening kickoff, and it did not take long for Hall to assert his dominance. A 32-yard scamper made it 6-0, and after a Nanticoke three-and-out, Taylor Breininger hauled in a 36-yard touchdown catch from Frank Dangello.
Following an interception by Trojans quarterback J.T. Levandowski, the Tigers (8-3) needed only four plays to score their third touchdown in 4:25. And once again, it was Hall, who capped the short drive with a 25-yard run.
Pat Hempel, who surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau against GAR two weeks ago, had a 26-yard touchdown run to slice the deficit to 18-7.
The Tigers' offense kept on rolling, and by halftime, their lead was 38-7. It was 50-7 after three quarters, but Nanticoke Area scored two touchdowns in a span of 1:56 in the fourth quarter.
"That's great for my young guys to be able to get that experience," Bruza said. "That gives me something to build on for next year."
The Trojans were a regular season surprise, earning their way into the postseason with consecutive wins over GAR and Hanover Area. But against an emerging District 11 program their season came to an end.
"Things didn't work out the way we wanted, but our program is back," Bruza said. "Nobody expected us to be in it. Everybody wrote us off at the beginning of the year. Our kids believed. They kept plugging away, and look, they were playing in Week 11."

Times Leader

Nanticoke (5-5) at Northwestern Lehigh (7-3)
7 p.m. today
Eastern Conference 2A Semifinal

What’s At Stake: The winner plays the winner of tonight’s North Penn (6-4) at North Schuylkill (7-3) game next Friday for the championship. Nanticoke will be on the road if it wins, while Northwestern Lehigh will be home if it wins.

The Coaches: Nanticoke’s Ron Bruza (16-23, 4th year); Northwestern Lehigh’s Josh Snyder (10-10, 2nd year)

Last Meeting: never played

All-Time Series: never played

Quick Fact: Nanticoke is appearing in the postseason for the first time since 1999.

Scouting Nanticoke: Nanticoke is coming off an emotional 29-26 victory over rival Hanover Area. The Trojans took over after a Hanover Area score with 2:35 remaining and went on a 12-play drive culminated by RB Blake Balderramma’s 3-yard run with 11 seconds remaining. It was the third time Nanticoke rallied from a deficit. Still, the Trojans fell just short of a D2-2A playoff berth, but for a program that has been down so long, playing Week 11 is huge. RB Pat Hempel went over 1,000 rushing yards, quite an accomplishment considering he had 283 at midseason. DB Kyle Gavrish picked off two passes, the first setting up the Trojans on a short touchdown drive. The defense bent a lot, but also came up big when needed.

Scouting Northwestern Lehigh: Northwestern Lehigh might have topped Nanticoke’s heroics last Friday. The Tigers upset previously unbeaten Catasauqua 28-27 in overtime on a 3-yard TD run by QB Frank Dangello. Catasauqua is favored to win the D11-2A title. The win showed how much the Tigers have improved from last year’s 57-3 loss to Catasauqua with basically the same personnel. And they should continue to improve as the top-three skill guys are underclassmen. Sophomore RB Harry Hall has over 1,000 yards on the ground and has scored 12 rushing TDs. Dangello, a junior, has thrown for over 1,000, so Northwestern Lehigh will bring a balanced attack. Junior WR Cameron Richardson is the top pass catcher. He is a top-notch athletic, but has battled injuries at times this year.

What To Expect: No matter what happens tonight, this is a huge step for a Nanticoke program that was a chronic loser for years until Bruza took over. The Trojans played with so much passion and determination against Hanover Area last Friday, it will be interesting to see if they can fire up the engines once again.

Steve Bennett - Citizens Voice

The last time the Nanticoke Area football team prepared for a playoff game was in 1999.
That year, current head coach Ron Bruza was the starting fullback and linebacker for a Trojans team that traveled to Dunmore and lost, 28-17.
Tonight, in his fourth year as the head coach at Nanticoke Area, Bruza will once again lead a Trojans football team back to the playoffs. Nanticoke Area plays at Northwestern Lehigh in the first round of the Eastern Conference Class AA playoffs.
To say that it has been a long road back to the postseason for the program would be an understatement. Since that playoff game against Dunmore, Nanticoke Area has played 139 games between playoff appearances. The program's overall record during that span is 35-104. The team finished over .500 once and that was when the Trojans went 6-4 in 2002.
This year's Nanticoke Area team is 5-5 and needed a victory against Hanover Area last week to clinch a spot. The Trojans earned the berth when they overcame an early 19-7 deficit to post a 29-26 victory. The game-winning touchdown came with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter when Blake Balderrama scored on a 3-yard run.
"The kids played well against Hanover Area," Bruza said. "We treated every game like a playoff game since we played GAR. The kids bought into it."
Nanticoke Area is on a bit of a roll heading into the playoffs. The Trojans are on a two-game winning streak and closed the regular season winning four of their final six games. With that in mind, Nanticoke Area brings a lot of confidence into tonight's game.
When times got tough during the year, Bruza emphasized the positives rather than spending time dwelling on the negatives. He believed that was the best approach was to build the team up rather than tear it down.
"We concentrated on the positives," Bruza said. "We kept staying positive, just showing them the type of team they could be when they wanted to play. More or less we showed the good things they accomplished instead of the mistakes we were making."
That approach seemed to work. However, this is no time just to be happy to have the opportunity to play a game in Week 11. The Trojans want more.
"We can't be happy just to be in," Bruza said. "We need to make something happen with the opportunity we worked hard to get. They believe they can beat anybody. It's the playoffs now and it feels really good to be still playing."

Players of the Week
Citizens Voice
WVC Standings
Citizens Voice
Kyle Gavrish
Defensive back
Intercepted two passes in a win over Hanover Area on Friday.
Nanticoke Area
Hanover Area
Wyoming Area
Holy Redeemer

A Look At Preseason Predictions
Citizens Voice
Party like it's 1999All season, Nanticoke Area coach Ron Bruza talked about the program turning the corner. But the Trojans had a disappointing loss to Susquehanna earlier in the season and some lapses when they couldn't put four quarters of football together.
On Friday night against Hanover Area, the Trojans found themselves with their backs against the wall once again. Trailing 19-7, Nanticoke Area fought back and eventually scored the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left to pull off a 29-26 victory.
The win put the Trojans in the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and snapped a streak of 10 consecutive losing seasons. Before this year, the last time Nanticoke Area finished a season with a .500-or-better record was 2002, when the Trojans went 6-4.

With win, Trojans appear headed to postseason

Fourth-and-1. Three yards to the end zone and only 11 seconds left to play.
Seemed like a perfect opportunity for Nanticoke running back Pat Hempel to get his 35th carry Friday night. Instead, the Trojans went another direction.
Fullback Blake Balderramma shot into the end zone like a torpedo as Nanticoke completed a rally from 11 points down to defeat rival Hanover Area 29-26 in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2A-A game.
Nanticoke improved to 5-5 with the victory, but the win wasn’t enough to qualify for the District 2 Class 2A playoffs. Susquehanna (5-5) and Mid Valley (5-5) gained those final berths despite losing. However, the press release from the Eastern Conference earlier this week stated the Nanticoke-Hanover Area winner was guaranteed a berth in the postseason.
If that’s the case, the Nanticoke would make the postseason for the first time since 1999. Even coach Ron Bruza was unsure if his Trojans would be playing next week because Mifflinburg was ahead of them in the E.C. Central Division.
“From what I hear, yes,” Bruza said about playing next week. “But I don’t know about the whole Mifflinburg thing about the Eastern Conference. They had some big points. Is that going to bump us? I don’t know. The districts were the longest shot. But from what I heard, we’re in the playoffs. That’s what everyone has been saying.”
It was hard to say that after Nanticoke fell behind 19-7 midway through the third quarter. The Trojans pulled within 22-19, but a 25-yard TD run by Hanover Area’s Ya’Sir Jones put the Hawkeyes (4-6) back on top with 2:40 to play.
That’s when Nanticoke went on a 12-play scoring drive, using the running of Hempel mainly. The senior running back also snagged a 19-yard pass on a third-and-10 to put the ball at the Hanover Area 12-yard line.
A pair of Hempel runs moved the ball to the 3, where quarterback J.T. Levandowski spiked it on third down to stop the clock with 14 seconds remaining.
The Trojans lined up two fullbacks in front of Hempel, who had rushed 34 times for 154 yards to that point. Balderramma got the call, shooting into the end zone for the game-winning score.
“I was getting in no matter what,” Balderramma said. “I wanted that ball, but the linemen did the blocking for me to score a touchdown.”
That was just fine with Hempel.
“It feels great,” Hempel said. “I feel like I stepped it up for my team and I did my best. The line did great. I just had to find the holes and run hard.”
Hanover Area scored first when center Shaun Jones recovered a fumble in the end zone at 7:49 of the second quarter. The Hawkeyes struck just before halftime for a 13-7 lead on a 59-yard TD pass from Jake Peters to Stephen Morgan. Running back Isaiah Taylor made it 19-7 at 5:25 of the third with a 72-yard run.
But Nanticoke answered back with a 17-yard TD reception by Hempel and a 2-yard run by Levandowski. The latter was set up by the first of two interceptions by Kyle Gavrish. Gavrish also ended Hanover Area’s last gasp with an interception on a desperation pass as time ran out.
Nanticoke 29, Hanover Area 26
Hanover Area`0`13`6`7`—`26
Second quarter
HAN — Shaun Jones fumble recovery in end zone (Tom Wolsieffer kick), 7:49
NAN — Pat Hempel 1 run (Alec Norton kick), 1:31
HAN — Stephen Morgan 59 pass from Jake Peters (kick failed), 0:57
Third quarter
HAN — Isaiah Taylor 72 run (pass failed), 5:25
NAN — Hempel 17 pass from J.T. Levandowski (Norton kick), 1:31
Fourth quarter
NAN — Levandowski 2 run (Blake Balderramma run), 7:24
HAN — Ya’Sir Jones 25 run (Wolsieffer kick), 2:40
NAN — Balderramma 3 run (Norton kick), 0:11
Team statistics`Nant`Han Area
First downs`15`14
Passing yards`49`134
Total yards`246`323
Sacked-yards lost`0-0`3-24
RUSHING — Nanticoke, Hempel 34-154, Balderramma 8-31, Levandowski 10-6, Tyler Myers 1-6. Hanover Area, Taylor 26-176, Jones 5-26, Peters 4-(minus-22), Mike Kremenic 1-5, Elido Veras 1-4.
PASSING — Nanticoke, Levandowski 4-12-0-49, team 0-1-0-0. Hanover Area, Peters 6-11-1-134, Jones 0-1-1-0, team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Nanticoke, Myers 2-13, Hempel 2-36. Hanover Area, Jones 1-0, Morgan 3-102, Derek Brodginski 1-28, Taylor 1-4.
INTERCEPTIONS — Nanticoke, Kyle Gavrish 2-23.
MISSED FGs — none.

Trojans are playoff bound
Steve Bennett - Citizens Voice

By the time Nanticoke Area's Blake Balderrama took the handoff, blasted through a hole created by his offensive line and landed in the end zone, he did more than just help the Trojans win a football game.
He helped erase the memory of 10 consecutive losing seasons and, by all accounts, may have clinched a berth in the postseason, a place the Trojans have not been to since 1999.
Balderamma's 3-yard run with 11 seconds left in the game gave the Trojans a 29-26 victory over Hanover Area in the regular season finale for both teams. The Trojans improved to 5-5 while Hanover Area ends its season at 4-6.
According to the Eastern Conference standings released earlier this week, the winner of Friday night's game would clinch a spot in the tournament.
The Trojans overcame a 19-7 deficit with 5:25 left in the third quarter when Hanover Area's Isaiah Taylor took a draw play 72 yards for a touchdown.
Nanticoke Area responded on the ensuing drive when Pat Hempel took a fourth down screen play 17 yards for a touchdown to get the Trojans within five.|
After Kyle Gavrish picked off a Hanover Area pass, J.T. Levandowski capped a four-play 24-yard drive with a 2-yard run to give Nanticoke Area its first lead of the night.
"These kids showed great character," Nanticoke Area coach Ron Bruza said.
"They really wanted this one. It was an all around great win for the program."
Following a Ya'Sir Jones 25-yard touchdown run put the Hawks back on top, by four, the Trojans went 58 yards in 11 plays with Balderrama delivering the game-winner with 11 seconds left.
"It was designed for him, he is our power back in short yardage," Bruza said. "He is a strong kid and we knew he would put it in."
Hempel rushed for 160 yards on the night giving him 1,091 for the season.
The Eastern Conference standings are expected to be finalized Sunday afteroon.

Gameface: Super 7 - Nanticoke
Citizens Voice

Record 4-5
Up Next - Hanover Area

Trojans jumped into the Super 7 after picking up second win in three games.

Pat Hempel

RB – Nanticoke
Hempel rushed 37 times for 243 yards as Nanticoke kept its postseason hopes alive with a 16-7 victory over GAR.
Hempel gave Nanticoke the lead for good, 10-7, with a 15-yard touchdown run with 11:20 left in the fourth quarter. His 28-yard run helped set up a field goal with 2.9 seconds left until halftime.
The 37 carries were a career high for Hempel. The 243 yards were the second-best game for the senior, who rushed for 258 yards against Holy Redeemer earlier in the year. He needs 20 yards against Hanover Area on Friday to reach 1,000 for the first time in his career.
Given Consideration
Tyler Myers, DB, Nanticoke

Hempel, Myers spark Trojans
Josh Horton - Citizens Voice

Nanticoke Area hasn't been to the playoffs since 1999 and Trojans head coach Ron Bruza was there - not with a headset - but with a helmet and shoulder pads.
With a 16-7 win over GAR on senior night, his Trojans have a chance to end the 13-year playoff drought. The only thing standing in the way is their biggest rival - Hanover Area.
"There's a lot of emotions flying around tonight, because these kids have played their last game together on this field," Bruza said. "The guys are excited, the community is excited."
Pat Hempel was one of the seniors who played his last home game for Nanticoke and he certainly made the most of it. He ran 37 times for 241 yards and a touchdown.
"He's our workhorse," Bruza said. "We came in and tried to play the game 10 yards at a time and when we needed him the most he stepped up. He's a big-time player."
Hempel's lone touchdown proved to be the game winner as the Trojans went into the fourth quarter trailing 7-3.
On first and 10 from the 15-yard line, the senior running back looked as if he was going to be tackled for a loss. He ended up using his speed to get around the Grenadier defenders and found an open path to the end zone down the GAR sideline. Norton drilled the PAT and the Trojans led 10-7 with 11:20 left to play.
"We faced a lot of good running backs this year and (Hempel) played really well tonight," GAR coach Paul Weidlich Jr. said. "We had kids who were in a position to make plays, but he just made plays of his own. Hats off to him."
Blake Balderrama then pulled the final straw from the GAR defense as the Trojan running back busted loose for a 20-yard touchdown with 3:43 left to play. The kick failed, but the Grenadiers couldn't overcome a two-possession deficit in the game's final minutes.
Tyler Myers had a big night defensively for Nanticoke finishing with three interceptions, one of which came in the end zone on a fourth and goal from the 6 for GAR on its first possession of the game.
"Tyler Myers has been a strong kid for us and he's a product of the program," Bruza said. "He's been with us since his sophomore year and he really stepped up tonight."
GAR struck first when Rashaun Mathis connected with Anthony Maurent for a 13-yard pass with 17.8 seconds left in the first quarter to give the Grenadiers the lead. Maurent also added 93 yards on the ground on 16 carries.
Alec Norton brought the Trojans to within 7-3 when he drilled a 38-yard field goal with just over two seconds left in the first half.

Trojans moving in right direction
By Steve Bennett (Staff Writer)
Citizens Voice

In his fourth season as the head coach at Nanticoke Area, Ron Bruza likes the direction the program is heading. All that is left for the Trojans to accomplish is to get that signature win over a program they are not expected to beat.
And after 11 wins in the last three years, Bruza believes this year is as good as any to get that victory.
The Trojans only lost six players from last year and roster numbers are up. Nanticoke Area should be dressing 40 or more players if everything remains intact from preseason camp. That is a long way from when Bruza first took over the program.
"When we took this over, we only had 18 kids," Bruza said. "Now you see 40 kids and we are scrounging for helmets. It is to the point that they know they are on the edge. We just want them to goand play football. We were in some games last year at the half and it was almost like they were waiting for the wheels to fall off and the third quarter would start and they would. When they put it together, they are a fun bunch to watch."
A perfect example of that would be last year's game against Wyoming Area. The Trojans trailed by just seven at the half only to go on and lose 44-14. With this year's experienced group, Bruza does not believe there will be too many games like that.
"The program is on track but it is not where it needs to be yet," Bruza said. "Kids are interested in the program and the community is slowly getting involved. There is pride back in the program. We cleaned it up from the bottom. It is to the point where they know how close they are. You see the kids have pride. Losing sucks for them now."
The goal this year will be to finish with at least a .500 record, something a Nanticoke Area football team has not done since going 6-4 in 2002. In order for that to happen, the Trojans are going to have to defeat one of the upper-echelon programs in the conference as well as the teams they are expected to beat.
In order to do that, they are going to have to be creative in finding ways to get Pat Hempel the football. Hempel was a well-kept secret the last two seasons, but that is not going to be the case this year. The word on Hempel is out and defenses and special teams until are going to be geared toward stopping him.
Hempel rushed for 798 yards last season, caught 19 passes out of the backfield and returned one punt and two kicks for touchdowns.
"Teams felt that if they stopped Hempel, they would be all right," Bruza said. "We are a little more balanced with the upper teams in the conference. It just seems like things are starting to balance out for us this year."
With that in mind, the Trojans are going to need their other skill players to step up and make plays to take some of the heat off returning quarterback J.T. Levandowski. That job will fall to the likes of running backs Blake Balderrama and Brad Yanus as well as receiver Kyle Gavrish and tight end Jordan Williams.
"We are experienced. The guys on offense we are counting on have been on the field a lot for the last two years," Bruza said. "It is just a matter of getting our athletes on the field and letting them make plays."

J.T. Levandowski returns as the starter with 2 1/2 years of playing experience under his belt. Last year he threw for 398 yards and rushed for seven touchdowns. Tyler Myers will be the backup. He attempted two passes last year.

Pat Hempel was the team's leading rusher last year, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Blake Balderrama, who rushed for 161 yards, and Brad Yanus also return. Alex Norton will see time at fullback.

Hempel will be used all over the field. He averaged 12.2 yards per catch last year but not all the receptions came out of the backfield. Kyle Gavrish averaged 17.2 yards per reception last year. Tyler Hanna and Myers will also line up at receiver.

This spot is one of the strengths of the team. Mitchell Romanowski and Giacoma Bova can both play center, with Romanowski likely being the starter. That moves Bova to right guard with Caleb Race playing right tackle. Brett Havens will be the left guard with Dylan Eichorn playing left tackle. The tight end will be Jordan Williams and Frank Marcinkowski.

The Trojans are switching to a 4-3 this year. Williams and Michael Clarke will be the ends. A combination of Race, Eichorn and Brandon Perez will be the tackles.

A.J. Hunter will be the weakside linebacker. Joe Shimko and Norton are in line to play the middle and Balderrama will be the strong side backer.

The corners will be Hempel, Hanna and Myers. The safeties are Gavrish and Yanus. Hempel and Gavrish each picked off two passes last year.

Norton kicked 17 extra points and two field goals last year as a freshman. Norton or Cory Hughes will be the punter.