CLARKS SUMMIT — Hazleton Area head coach Mike Brennan felt Abington Heights’ first possession of the game set the tone.
The Comets 14-play, 65-yard drive, with 55 coming from the running game, was capped by a 23-yard field goal from Colin McCreary with 4:52 left in the first quarter.
Abington Heights used a strong push from its line and capitalized on four Hazleton turnovers to defeat the Cougars, 37-14, in a non-league football game on Saturday afternoon at Comets Stadium.
“They had one of those long opening drives like they’ve had the last few weeks,” Brennan said. “We couldn’t stop their running game much. They physically manhandled us up front, from the start, on both sides of the ball.”
Hazleton Area had some success on its first drive when quarterback Sparky Wolk connected with Hunter Vanblargan for 18 yards, but the drive stalled and a 9-yard punt set Abington Heights up with great field position at the Cougars 48-yard line.
The Comets took advantage when Nick Emmett, who saw time at both quarterback and wide receiver, connected with Tom Rothenberger for a 36-yard touchdown with 11:11 remaining in the second quarter.
“I took snaps at both positions all week and we were prepared, either way, whether it was me or Colin McCreary (at quarterback),” Emmett said. “Our offensive line deserves all the credit, they gave me the time and I completed the passes.”
Abington Heights started its next drive with even better field position when Matthan Sherman intercepted a Wolk pass at the Cougars 24-yard line.
Four plays later, McCreary hit Brandon Hardy for a 14-yard touchdown to give the Comets a 17-0 lead with 7:37 left in the second quarter.
Matthan Sherman added to the Comets lead when he picked off a pass and ran 19 yards for a touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the first half.
Hazleton Area’s turnover struggles continued into the second half.
Abington Heights linebacker Owen Hivner intercepted a pass at the Comets 25-yard line and returned the ball to midfield to end the Cougars first drive of the third quarter.
Emmett connected with McCreary for a 29-yard touchdown, five plays later, to give the Comets a commanding 30-0 advantage.
“We got some guys banged up throughout the game, but that’s no excuse,” Brennan said. “We were soundly beaten today by a good, solid football team. We just have to get better, it’s back to the drawing board on Monday.”
Matthan Sherman appeared to have his second interception return for a touchdown with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter, but an inadvertent whistle blew the play dead after he picked off the pass at the Cougars 28-yard line.
Abington Heights cashed in on the turnover when Kaleb Sherman scored on a 4-yard run.
Hazleton Area scored its first points of the game on a 22-yard touchdown run from Kaleb Yahner, who gained 44 yards on six carries, with 5:04 left in the fourth quarter.
Just under three minutes later, Hazleton’s Carlix Hill intercepted a pass from George Tinsley and returned the ball 22 yards for a touchdown.
Abington Heights 37, Hazleton Area 14
AH — Colin McCreary 23 FG, 4:52
AH — Tom Rothenberger 36 pass from Nick Emmett (McCreary kick), 11:11
AH — Brandon Hardy 14 pass from McCreary (McCreary kick), 7:37
AH — Matthan Sherman 19 interception return (McCreary kick), 57.6
AH — McCreary 29 pass from Emmett (kick failed), 7:14
AH — Kaleb Sherman 4 run (Jimmy Sweeney kick), 10:03
HA — Kaleb Yahner 22 run (Will Barrientos kick), 5:04
HA — Carlix Hill 22 interception return (Barrientos kick), 2:44
RUSHING — HA, Adrian Otero 12-71, Yahner 6-44, Carson Kinney 4-24, Damon Horton 2-4, Austin Andruzzi 1-3, Sparky Wolk 3-1, Nolan Schneider 1-1. AH, Anthony Duboski 13-57, McCreary 8-32, Emmett 5-24, K. Sherman 8-20, Austin Kohut 5-2, Sweeney 1 (-3).
PASSING — HA, Wolk 3-11-4-34. AH, McCreary 3-4-0-40, Emmett 2-2-0-65, George Tinsley 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING — HA, Hunter Vanblargan 1-18, Otero 1-14, David Smith 1-2. AH, Rothenberger 1-36, McCreary 1-29, Hardy 2-24, M. Sherman 1-16.
INTERCEPTIONS — HA, Hill 1-22. AH, M. Sherman 3-19, Owen Hivner 1-25.
MISSED FGs — None
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.