road ends for Nanticoke Area
Evan Korn - Citizens Voice
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
"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.
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.
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."
AT NORTHWESTERN LEHIGH
(5-5) at Northwestern Lehigh (7-3)
7 p.m. today
Eastern Conference 2A
Whats At Stake: The winner plays
the winner of tonights 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: Nanticokes
Ron Bruza (16-23, 4th year); Northwestern Lehighs Josh Snyder (10-10, 2nd
Last Meeting: never played
Series: never played
Quick Fact: Nanticoke is appearing
in the postseason for the first time since 1999.
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 Balderrammas 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.
Northwestern Lehigh: Northwestern Lehigh might have topped Nanticokes 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 years
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.
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
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.
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
Intercepted two passes in a win over Hanover Area
A Look At Preseason Predictions
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.
improved to 5-5 with the victory, but the win wasnt 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 thats 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 dont know about the whole Mifflinburg
thing about the Eastern Conference. They had some big points. Is that going to
bump us? I dont know. The districts were the longest shot. But from what
I heard, were in the playoffs. Thats what everyone has been saying.
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 Areas
YaSir Jones put the Hawkeyes (4-6) back on top with 2:40 to play.
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.
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
Areas last gasp with an interception on a desperation pass as time ran out.
29, Hanover Area 26
HAN Shaun Jones fumble recovery in end zone (Tom Wolsieffer
NAN Pat Hempel 1 run (Alec Norton kick), 1:31
Stephen Morgan 59 pass from Jake Peters (kick failed), 0:57
Isaiah Taylor 72 run (pass failed), 5:25
NAN Hempel 17 pass from
J.T. Levandowski (Norton kick), 1:31
2 run (Blake Balderramma run), 7:24
HAN YaSir Jones 25 run (Wolsieffer
NAN Balderramma 3 run (Norton kick), 0:11
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.
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
MISSED FGs none.
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.
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.
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.
kids showed great character," Nanticoke Area coach Ron Bruza said.
really wanted this one. It was an all around great win for the program."
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
"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."
rushed for 160 yards on the night giving him 1,091 for the season.
Conference standings are expected to be finalized Sunday afteroon.
Gameface: Super 7 - Nanticoke
Up Next - Hanover
Trojans jumped into the Super 7 after picking
up second win in three games.
TIMES LEADER PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Hempel rushed 37 times
for 243 yards as Nanticoke kept its postseason hopes alive with a 16-7 victory
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.
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
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
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
"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
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.
moving in right direction
By Steve Bennett (Staff Writer)
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.