CLARKS SUMMIT — As Wyoming Valley West kicker Jake Gurtis was walking off the field — the game ball tucked under his arm — assistant coach Ted Jackson Sr. shouted to him.
“Hey, anybody can score a goal,” Jackson joked.
Soccer is a bit more difficult than that, but so was what Gurtis did Saturday afternoon.
Gurtis, a soccer player who moonlights as the team’s kicker, booted a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give Valley West a 23-20 victory over Abington Heights in a key game to determine seedings in the District 2 Class 5A football playoffs.
Valley West (5-2) came into the weekend tied with Abington (4-3) for the top seed in the D2-5A standings. All three teams, which also includes Wallenpaupack (3-4), make the playoffs with the top seed getting a first-round bye and hosting the championship game.
The Spartans exited — thanks in part to three second-half field goals by Gurtis — ahead of Abington by 150 state points.
“We’re in a good position right now and control our own destiny,” Valley West coach Pat Keating said, “but we have three quality opponents down the stretch and another huge game next week (against Berwick). We haven’t been able to come up for air all season.”
Tied 20-20, Valley West took possession at the Abington 41-yard line with 2:30 remaining after a punt. Six plays later, the Spartans were at the 20 and called a timeout with 5.4 seconds remaining.
Gurtis crushed his two earlier field goals in the half, from 22 and 31 yards to extend Valley West’s lead to 20-10 in the third quarter. His game-winning kick didn’t have the same oomph to it and it barely had enough juice to clear the crossbar.
Gurtis said an Abington timeout before he kicked didn’t phase him.
“It didn’t affect me much,” Gurtis said. “I knew I just had to go out there and do my job. I knew the linemen and Aaron (Austin), the holder, would do their jobs. I just had to finish it off.
“It felt it a little weak coming off my foot, but I knew I got enough behind it to get it over the goalpost.”
Valley West’s 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter evaporated quickly. Colin McCreary booted a 24-yard field goal, his second of the game, two plays into the final period to move the Comets within 20-13.
Then six plays after Tom Rothenberger returned a Valley West punt 27 yards, McCreary threw a 17-yard TD pass to Brandon Hardy at the front right pylon of the end zone.
McCreary tried a few times to connect with Hardy only to have Valley West defensive back Sean Judge thwart those efforts. Judge had good coverage on the 17-yard TD to Hardy, but the pass was so well thrown he had no chance to break it up.
Abington can still catch Valley West for the top seed in D2-5A, but the key right now is to at least hold on to second to get home game in the semifinals. The Comets can take a big step by defeating Wallenpaupack next Saturday.
“We’re always one day at a time,” Abington coach Joe Repshis said. “We’re going to come back on Monday and prepare for Wallenpaupack and worry about the things we can control. That’s working to improve every day in practice and our effort and attitude.
“That’s always been our approach — one day at a time.”
Wyo. Valley West 23, Abington Heights 20
Wyo. Val. West`7`7`6`3`—`23
AH —Colin McCreary 59 run (McCreary kick), 10:58
WVW — Sean Judge 8 run (Jake Gurtis kick), 6:16
AH — McCreary 26 FG, 9:11
WVW — Aaron Austin 5 run (Gurtis kick), 2:51
WVW — Gurtis 22 FG, 6:02
WVW — Gurtis 31 FG, 0:12
AH — McCreary 24 FG, 11:39
AH — Brandon Hardy 17 pass from McCreary (McCreary kick), 7:03
WVW — Gurtis 37 FG, 0:00
RUSHING — WVW, Judge 25-119, Austin 22-111, Melovitz 1-3, Jake Shemo 1-3. Abington, Kaleb Sherman 14-55, McCreary 8-69, George Tinsley 1-(minus-4), Hardy 1-(minus-4).
PASSING — WVW, Austin 12-15-0-105. Abington, McCreary 6-12-0-83, Tinsley 2-2-0-28, team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — WVW, Darrian Tyson 4-24, Judge 5-30, Shemo 2-43, Rob Dwyer 1-8. Abington, Corey Justave 2-39, Mikey Malone 1-16, Nick Emmett 2-24, Tom Rothenberger 1-12, Hardy 2-20.
INTERCEPTIONS — None.
MISSED FGs — Abington 37 BLK.
Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar