The Tigers continued to search for their first win of the season this week, but fell short at Pittston Area, 20-7.
Despite the loss, head coach Mike Marabell said, “We are getting better on both sides of the ball.”
Mike Nocito was hit when he let go of his fourth-down pass, so he couldn’t watch his deep ball sail into the end zone.
Not that the Pittston Area quarterback had to see Bryan Giambra to believe he could run under the ball for a 32-yard score.
Giambra and receiver Andrew Krawczyk put together a highlight-worthy collection of receptions in the first half as Pittston Area bounced back from being shut out last week with a big first half against Tunkhannock. Both wide-outs brought in touchdown passes from Nocito, while running back Dylan Lukachko added plenty of balance on the ground as the Patriots defeated the Tigers.
When both offenses stalled in the second half, the Patriots’ defense sealed the win as Billy Kyttle earned the game ball with two interceptions and Tannon Kraklio and Franny George also picked off a pass.
“It was great. It really changed the momentum for us,” Nocito described the quick start. “It just gave us a bunch of confidence to keep going.”
Nocito, a junior, was 6 of 21 passing and made his completions count. He tallied 130 passing yards and two touchdowns as Giambra took three catches for 81 yards and Krawczyk added a pair of receptions and 32 yards.
Krawczyk’s first catch extended Pittston Area’s (2-1) first touchdown drive on a fake punt. Giambra took a direct snap, and Krawcyzk fell into his pass near the sideline.
Later that drive, Krawczyk snagged a tipped pass in stride for a 20-yard score.
Giambra’s first two receptions were 29- and 20-yarders that came despite defensive holding and interference. His third was the 32-yard score on fourth-and-15 not long before halftime.
“I’ve been working with them since I was little,” Nocito said, “when we were playing peewee football. So we just have a good chemistry.”
Of course, Pittston Area coach Nick Barbieri wanted more from the offense in a scoreless second half, when three drives ended beyond midfield.
The defense picked up the slack by doing its best to bottle up shifty running back Garrett Hopkins, who led the Tigers (0-3) with 56 yards on 14 carries and 50 more yards on five receptions. Tunkhannock had its hurry-up offense stopped 10 yards short of the goal line before halftime, too, and it missed a field goal as a result.
Lukachko also helped Pittston Area run down the clock with his 158 rushing yards on 26 carries — including a late 46-yard burst and four runs of eight or more yards on his final six carries. He was stopped for a loss only four times, which helped the Nocito’s passing game open up.
Although Barbieri said “a win is a win,” there’s room for improvement before Week 4 vs. Dallas.
“They’re weapons, and they’re open; we just got to get them the ball,” Barbieri said of his top receivers. “I thought we did not do a good job of getting the ball to the open receivers tonight. We had a lot open.
“Part of that is our protection up front. We’re not doing a great job with protection. Teams are going to bring pressure; we got to take advantage of the one-on-ones. But they’re both good receivers out there.”
“Our younger guys are starting to step up and contribute to the team,” said Marabell. His Tigers will host Holy Redeemer this Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
Pittston Area 20 Tunkhannock 7
Tunkhannock 0 7 0 0 — 7 Pittston Area 14 6 0 0 — 20
PA - Andrew Krawczyk 20 pass from Mike Nocito (Luchia Carabetta kick), 5:46. PA - Dylan Lukachko 4 run (Carabetta kick), 0:36.
Tunk - Garrett Hopkins 7 run (Zach Ross kick), 7:28.
PA - Bryan Giambra 32 pass from Nocito (Carabetta kick failed), 2:15.
First Downs 17 17
Rush-Att-Yards 34-137 5-158 Comp-Att-Int 14-33-4 7-22-0 Passing Yards 168 142
Total Yards 305 300
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-60 5-45
Rushing: Tunk – G.Hopkins 14-56, 1 TD; M.Ramey 8-41; G.D’Amato 6-24; J.Chilson 3-13; A.Seboe 2-3; Team - 1-0. PA – D.Lukachko 26-158, 1 TD; J.O’Boyle 5-8; M. Nocito 1-(-9); Team - 3-(-9).
Passing: Tunk – J.Chilson 13-32-4, 145; Z.Rogers 1-1-0, 23. PA – M.Nocito 6-21-0, 130, 2 TDs; B.Giambra 1-1-0, 12. Receiving: Tunk – G. Hopkins 5-50; J. Frisco 4-32; J.Zacharias 2-26; M. Ramey 1-7; G.D’Amato 1-30; J. Stephens 1-23. PA – B.Giambra 3-81, 1 TD; A.Krawczyk 2-32, 1 TD; A.Haas 1-17. Interceptions: PA - B. Kyttle 2, T. Kraklio, F. George.