SCRANTON — Three turnovers were the difference.
West Scranton held a one-point advantage at halftime, but Abington Heights scored 20 points off three takeaways in the second half to turn the tide and defeat the Invaders, 26-7, in a Lackawanna Football Conference game Friday, Sept. 9 at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
Abington Heights received the ball first and Colin McCreary capped a 16-play drive with a 21-yard field goal. McCreary, who also plays quarterback, picked up four first downs on runs of 17, 13, 8 and 3 yards, during the possession which lasted nearly nine minutes.
West Scranton didn’t waste much time putting its own points on the scoreboard, taking just 13 seconds to find the end zone.
After a false start penalty pushed the Invaders back five yards on the first play of the ensuing drive, West Scranton quarterback Nick Gioia connected with Dashawn Minnick for an 85-yard touchdown up the middle of the field on the next play.
McCreary, who rushed for 63 yards on 19 carries, converted three more first downs on the Comets next drive and ended the 18-play possession, which took an additional 8:12 off the clock, with a 32-yard field goal during a driving rainstorm that persisted throughout most of the contest.
After Abington Heights gained just six yards on its first two drives of the second half and lost a fumble, the Comets defense provided a spark.
Linebacker Ryan Harvey intercepted a pass at the West Scranton 20-yard line and returned the ball down to the 7. Three plays later, McCreary scored on a 4-yard touchdown run. His pass on a two-point conversion attempt failed, but Abington Heights regained the lead, 12-7, with 1:25 remaining in the third quarter.
“I dropped back, saw the quarterback’s eyes and made sure I caught the ball and picked up yards,” Harvey said. “It swung the momentum and I knew we were going to pound it in on offense.”
They Comets would never trail again.
Abington Heights turned two fourth quarter turnovers into touchdowns to build on the lead.
Logan Hivner recovered a fumble by Gioia at the Invaders 13-yard line with 9:22 left in the fourth and, two plays later, Anthony Duboski broke through the line for a 10-yard touchdown run.
“This week, we had three starters out,” Logan Hivner said. “A lot of underclassmen had to step up and execute on both sides of the ball. After the 85-yard (touchdown) they had, we realized we couldn’t hang our heads, we had to give 110 percent on each snap.”
Abington Heights’ defense limited West Scranton to six yards of offense in the second half.
“On both sides of the ball, (Abington Heights) played good, fundamental football,” West Scranton head coach Brian Fahey said. “I give (Logan) Hivner and (Nick) Badalamente a lot of credit. They get low, secure their gaps and play good unit defense.”
An interception and 28 yard return by Owen Hivner set up Abington Heights’ last score, a 1-yard plunge by McCreary with 1:51 remaining in the game.
“We made an adjustment, defensively, at halftime,” Fahey said. “The storm kind of lifted and we thought we could execute a little bit better offensively, but turnovers are the key against a good team like Abington (Heights). That was the difference.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.