Trojans Claim Eastern Conference Title
NANTICOKE — Friday’s rain made it difficult to control the ball on Nanticoke Area’s natural grass field.
But, it also made for a messy celebration.
After Colby Butcynski kneeled out the final minute, the Trojans sprinted and slid headfirst into the home sideline in a pool of mud. Nanticoke Area struck early and held on to win the Class 4A Eastern Conference Championship over Hamburg, 14-6, in a contest riddled with turnovers.
“Muddiest game I’ve ever coached in, ever played in, anything,” Trojan head coach Ron Bruza said. “This is one these kids from Hamburg and (Nanticoke) are going to remember for the rest of their lives.”
The teams combined for eight lost fumbles and just 128 total yards as it seemed nearly impossible to hold onto the football, and mishandled snaps were a factor in several turnovers and lost opportunities.
“It’s certainly a game they’ll never forget in terms of playing in these conditions,” Hamburg head coach Chuck Kutz said. “A lot of ups and downs, a lot of balls on the ground, you can’t get any consistency, and once you get behind and they can pin their ears back and keep bringing everybody in the trenches, it became a difficult situation as the rain continued to fall and the field continued to get muddier.”
Darren Boseman set up the Trojans in good field position with a 57-yard punt return early on. Four plays later, Joe Ammons busted through the Hamburg defense to score the game’s only offensive touchdown on a four-yard carry.
Hamburg’s (4-7) ensuing drive looked promising as Shaheed Warren and Brendan Hamilton pounded the ball into the red zone. The Hawks came up empty on offense, however, losing a fumbled snap inside the five.
Hamburg’s defense had other plans, and when the Trojans fumbled a snap of their own, David Hummel jumped on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
The next eight drives netted a combined -4 yards, and Nanticoke Area headed into halftime with an 8-6 lead.
“Tough running across the board,” Kutz said. “It was a tough night to get anything going.”
More of the same offensive struggles persisted in the third quarter. But, early in the final period, Hamburg had its chance to take the lead.
Nicholas Saul set up for a 26-yard field goal to put Hamburg ahead by one, but the snap slipped through his holder’s hands, and the Hawks came up empty inside the red zone again.
With time running out for the Hamburg, Ammons put the game away with a five-yard interception return late in the fourth quarter.
Ammons scored all 14 of Nanticoke Area’s points and rushed for a hard-earned 59 yards in the final game of his career to bring his season total to 1,470.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Bruza said. “We fought through a long season. Moving up to a higher classification, doing what’s best for the community, these guys battled through a lot.”
Warren led the Hawks with 69 yards rushing followed by Hamilton’s 21.
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