H.S. Football: West Scranton outlasts Hazleton Area
By Kevin Carroll,2023-09-22
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HAZLETON — With over 800 combined yards of offense between Hazleton Area and West Scranton on Friday night, the game was going to come down to which defense could make a stop late.
West Scranton got that stop. Hazleton simply had no answers for the Invaders run game.
Hunter Baumgardner ran for 317 yards and two scores, Shamier Lyons ran for two more touchdowns and West Scranton picked up their first win of the year in a 41-34 shootout over Hazleton at Harman Geist Memorial Field.
“We did everything we possibly could, our kids gave effort…but we couldn’t stop the run,” said Hazleton Area head coach Dennis Buchman after the loss, his team’s fourth in a row.
While West Scranton didn’t have a whole lot better luck keeping Hazleton’s offense off the board, they did come up with a big stop when it mattered most.
Down a score in the fourth quarter and forced to give the ball back to West Scranton, Hazleton’s special teams unit came up with a fumble recovery after the Invaders return man couldn’t handle the punt.
With some momentum swinging their way and a short field to work with, the Cougars marched their way inside the West Scranton 10-yard-line, with halfback Brady Mizenko leading the way.
Mizenko left last week’s game with an injury, but looked in fine form against the Invaders, rushing for 117 yards and two first-half touchdowns.
Looking at fourth and short, however, West Scranton’s defense was able to stiffen up and stuff the big ball-carrier, dropping him at the line of scrimmage and getting the ball back for the Invader offense.
“The kid (Mizenko) runs hard, and they feed him the rock,” West Scranton head coach Jake Manetti said. “We were able to close that interior line down.”
With the turnover on downs, the ball came back into the possession of a West Scranton offense that piled up over 500 yards of offense, more than half of that coming from Baumgardner, who would put the Invaders ahead 41-27 in the closing minutes with a 28-yard touchdown run.
He also had an 80-yard score to begin the second half, and a 65-yarder in the first half to set up his teammate Lyons for a score.
“When you’re in the moment, it’s hard to keep track of the yards, I was more focused on the score,” Baumgardner said. “I give a lot of credit to our receivers and tight ends for sealing the edge.”
While Hazleton wasn’t as prolific racking up yardage, the Cougars managed to keep up with a combination of Mizenko, quarterback Austin Wilson and receiver Yohansel Moran, who only caught two passes but turned them into 91 yards and a late touchdown to give Hazleton one last chance at a comeback.
The Cougars also forced three turnovers to help themselves out: in addition to the fumble on the punt return, Hazleton Area recovered another fumble in the first quarter, and Ashton Karlick had a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown.
But the takeaways were too few and far between, and Baumgardner’s night carried West Scranton to their first win of the season.
“It’s unbelievable, it feels great,” Baumgardner said. “But we’ve got to keep building off it, there’s a long way to go.”
Hazleton Area drops to 1-4, and will head to Dallas next week. West Scranton (1-4) will return home to take on Western Wayne.