SCRANTON — Big plays were the story of the opening game between Abington Heights and Scranton Prep.
The Comets just happened to make a few more.
After Abington Heights managed just 11 yards on its first 12 plays of the game, sophomore George Tinsley, who took over at quarterback after an injury to starter Nick Emmett, connected for an 81-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Hardy on his first throw of the game with 8:47 left in the second quarter.
The long pass was one of three first-half touchdowns for Abington Heights, who held off Scranton Prep, 21-14, in a Lackawanna Football Conference non-division game on a sweltering afternoon, Aug. 27, at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
“We say you never know when your name and number is going to be called,” Abington Heights head coach Joe Repshis said. “You have to be ready. We had guys step up in key situations and make plays for us.”
On the ensuing Scranton Prep drive, it was a member of Abington Heights’ defense who found the end zone.
Defensive end Nick Kerekes intercepted a pass from Scranton Prep quarterback Jake Ryan and after a slight bobble raced 73 yards for a touchdown with 1:52 remaining in the second quarter.
The Comets weren’t done scoring for the half.
Running back Kaleb Sherman burst through a big hole and outran several Scranton Prep defenders en roue to a 58-yard touchdown with 51.4 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
“We feel our skill players, whether it’s our backs or receivers, have the ability to make a big play at any point in time,” Repshis said.
Scranton Prep (0-1) scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the second half.
Running back Ricky Morgan, who gained 104 yards on 28 carries, capped a 10-play, 67-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 7:10 left in the third quarter.
Then, Ryan connected with tight end Tristan Davis, who found a seam in the middle of the Comets defense, for a 37-yard touchdown with 1:47 remaining in the third.
“(Scranton) Prep is a very talented, well-coached team and we knew they were going to come out in the second half ready to play,” Repshis said. “We found ourselves in a ballgame in the fourth quarter, which we knew we would.”
Hardy shifted the momentum back in Abington Heights’ favor when he made a sliding interception at the Comets 23-yard line with 10:52 left in the fourth quarter. The senior pulled down another interception on a third down heave from Ryan at the Abington Heights 5-yard line with 3:01 remaining in the fourth.
“I don’t care what my body goes through,” Hardy said. “I just grabbed the ball and tucked it in, whatever happens after I hit the ground doesn’t matter as long as we have possession.”
Ryan found Mario Giannone for a 31-yard completion to midfield on a 4th-and-8 play to keep the Cavaliers comeback hopes alive with 35 seconds left in the game, but two stellar defensive plays by Abington Heights defenders sealed the win.
Linebacker Ben Vale knocked a pass loose from a Scranton Prep receiver on third down and Kerekes swatted down a pass on fourth down to hand the ball back to the Comets.
“I was so tired, but I had to jump up and finish the game for the team,” Kerekes said. “It was a very hot game. We had to come together as a family and keep pushing each other. That’s the only way we could have done it.”
Abington Heights (1-0) will host North Pocono at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 at Comets Stadium.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.