Horton, Cougars Slosh Past Williamsport, Advance To Subregional Final
HAZLETON — Hazleton Area’s long, winding road through the 2018 season has led the Cougars back to the championship game once again.
On Friday night, the Cougars rode another huge game from Damon Horton and solid play from a host of players on both sides of the football to a 47-13 rout of rival Williamsport.
The semifinal victory punched the Cougars’ ticket to next Friday’s District 2-4 Class 6A championship in Milford. There they will have a rematch with defending subregional champion and top seed Delaware Valley, a 26-0 winner over Scranton in yesterday’s other semifinal game.
Injuries to key players and a pair of one-point losses — including one to Williamsport in Week 4 here — had the Cougars reeling at 2-5 heading into Week 7. They haven’t lost since.
“A lot of things happened that were hard for our kids, that our kids had to fight through, and they fought through it,” Cougars head coach Mike Brennan said. “We had a lot of confidence in our leaders and to help get us back to where we needed to go. To be playing for a championship two years in a row is something that hasn’t happened here in a while. I’m proud of the guys.”
A steady rain throughout Friday’s contest failed to keep the Cougars from their appointed rounds. They struck early and often, and controlled the contest from the get-go.
“You got the feeling the kids knew what they had to do, and they were dialed in from the start,” Brennan said. “The elements weren’t a concern for us. They affected both teams a little bit, but we went after it.”
Four All-State caliber players who played in the teams’ 64-63 shootout back in September were missing this time around, including Williamsport’s standout trio of Trey Potts, Joe Fagnano and Marcus Simmons, all sidelined with injuries. The Cougars pounced on the opportunity.
Horton backed up his 282-yard, 7-touchdown performance in the first meeting against the Millionaires with another gem Friday. The senior running back carried 20 times for 202 yards and four touchdowns, and added 95 yards on three receptions and a fifth touchdown through the air. In all, he finished with 297 yards from scrimmage.
“A lot of things have happened to us, but we’ve put so much work into this, we can’t let anything stop us,” said Horton, who missed parts of three games to injury down the stretch. On Friday, he ran with the reckless abandon that was a trademark in the season’s first six games.
“Damon was Damon Horton tonight, no question about it,” Brennan beamed. “Damon’s 100 percent again. He made plays at receiver, he made plays at running back, he had a burst. He has fresh legs going into Week 12, and that’s a really good thing for us.”
“The past couple games I was being a little hesitant with my shoulder,” Horton said. “This week, I just went after it.”
Did he ever.
On the game’s third play from scrimmage, he hauled in a pass in the flat from Sparky Wolk and broke free down the Williamsport sideline for a 59-yard touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead just 1:38 into the contest.
When Seth Hunsinger recovered the first of three Millionaire lost fumbles on the night, the Cougars were back in business. It took just one play to double the lead.
On first down, Horton broke off a 75-yard touchdown run that hiked the score to 14-0 midway through the opening quarter.
Horton and Brennan credited the play of the offensive line for a 452-yard offensive night, 279 of those coming on the ground. They did that despite missing two starters, and having a third battling through illness all week. Richie Santos and James Bugda stepped in to fill the void, and regular starters Jordan Cunningham, Josh Hedrington and Michael Fuchick helped the Cougars control the line of scrimmage.
“I feel the guys up front stepped up big-time. Really big-time,” Horton said.
“The O-line did very good,” Brennan added. “I thought we did as well as we could in the passing game and the running game. That was encouraging. I was really proud of those guys up front.”
“The usual guys made plays, the up-front guys battled, and defensively I think we took a step in the right direction. It was a good, solid win, no doubt,” Brennan said.
“We have a little confidence now. We’ve won four in a row, the young guys are starting to develop, and we had some young guys on the field for us tonight on both sides of the ball,” he added. “It was encouraging that we were able to go out and take care of business tonight and not sputter.”
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