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Susquehanna's defense broke through to throw the Wilkes-Barre GAR defense for a dozen losses in Saturday's football opener.
The Grenadiers produced enough big plays, however, to support their own strong defensive effort and turn aside the Sabers, 20-0, in the non-league game.
"I thought our defense played well in spurts," Susquehanna coach Dick Bagnall said. "We didn't maintain it every play."
The Grenadiers had five plays of at least 20 yards while the Sabers had just one, accounting for a 257-159 advantage in total offense.
Robbie Lucinski hit Breon Phillips with a 36-yard pass to the 4 where Ryan Womack scored the first of his three touchdowns on the next play with 4:57 left in the first quarter.
Lucinski's 20-yard touchdown pass to Womack on third-and-goal with 5:05 left in the third quarter broke open what had been a tense game.
"It was a big play to put us up by two scores," GAR coach Tony Khalife said. "As long as it's just one score, they still have life."
Womack carried seven times for 81 yards in the second half to finish with 13 carries for 108 yards. He opened the half with a 26-yard run then had runs of 16, 14 and 12 on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive.
Lucinski was thrown for so many losses that he finished with 14 carries for 19 net yards despite having a 49-yard run.
GAR never allowed Susquehanna to get closer than the 28 while forcing three turnovers.
"We're probably the smallest high school football team in this part of the state," said Bagnall, who hoped a new-look Navy option offense would allow his small line to be effective. "In this offense, our tackles have to block linebackers and we weren't blocking linebackers."
Susquehanna put together its best drive with a chance to tie the game in the final two minutes of the half.
C.J. Felter sandwiched runs of 12 and 15 yards around an 11-yard Cody Scepaniak run to move the ball from the Susquehanna 34 to the GAR 28 in three plays. After a loss of a yard and a dropped pass on a potential big play, Womack came up with an interception at the 14 to end the threat.
Felter finished with seven carries for 54 yards and hit sophomore Jordan Aldrich with a 38-yard halfback-option pass. Aldrich had two catches for 47 yards.
Brad Allen led the Susquehanna defense with five tackles, including two for four yards in losses, and eight assists.
"He played a little bit at the end of last season," Bagnall said of the junior linebacker. "He's grown. He's still learning how to play linebacker."
Defensive end Julian Andujar had two sacks for 18 yards in losses and another tackle for a loss. He finished with five tackles and two assists.
Sophomore defensive back Nick Felter made a team-high seven tackles, including one for a loss, and added an assist.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Chris Kubaugh ran for a touchdown in each of the first three quarters Friday night to lead Hanover Area to a 42-14 romp over Montrose in a non-league football opener.
Workhorse tailback Jared Fowler surpassed the 100-yard mark rushing and gave Montrose an early 6-0 lead.
The Hawkeyes, however, got more than 100 yard rushing from Kubaugh and passing from Eric Popovich while the Meteors were unable to complete a pass.
Montrose threatened late in the half. Hanover Area escaped with a sack on fourth-and-goal then kneeled with the ball to kill the clock and head to the locker room with a 22-6 lead.
In field hockey, Madison Legg made 15 saves to help Montrose to a 1-1 tie with Hanover Area in the season opener.
Brackney Brotzman scored on an assist from Nikky Finch in the second half.
Hanover Area had a 23-13 edge in shots and a 26-4 edge in penalty corners in the game, which remained tied through the 15-minute, 7-on-7, sudden-death overtime period.
In girls' tennis, Elk Lake defeated Montrose, 3-2, in a match between the only two programs in Susquehanna County.
In professional baseball, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees clinched the International League North Division title in their first season since the franchise switched from the Red Barons and an affiliation with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Yankees came within an out of a combined no-hitter Saturday in an 11-2 win over Pawtucket.
Matt DeSalvo pitched five hitless innings and Scott Patterson followed with three perfect innings. Charlie Manning allowed a two-out single to Chris Carter.
The Yankees officially clinched Thursday when second-place Rochester lost a doubleheader opener in Ottawa, but the team went on to add a win of its own, 6-3, over Syracuse.
Earlier in the week, Dave Miley of the Yankees was named IL Manager of the Year.
Shelly Duncan was selected as an IL all-star outfielder after hitting 25 home runs to earn a promotion to the New York Yankees.
Joe Scanlon, a freshman from Mountain View, is a forward/midfielder on the Misericordia University soccer team.
Misericordia opened its season by going 1-1 in the Paterson/Montclair Classic in New Jersey.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees will play the first two games of the best-of-five International League semifinals Wednesday and Thursday at the home field of the wild-card team.
The Yankees will return home Friday for Game Three and will also be at PNC Field the next two days, if necessary.
In high school football, Montrose plays its home opener Friday night against Mid Valley. Susquehanna is on the road the same night against Western Wayne, the only team it beat a year ago. All four teams lost their openers.
Our high school football predictions for the opening weekend were 10-4 (71.4 percent). This week's predictions, with home teams in CAPS: MONTROSE 24, Mid Valley 14; Susquehanna 27, WESTERN WAYNE 13; Abington Heights 10, WYOMING VALLEY WEST 7; DUNMORE 40, Carbondale 14; Delaware Valley 13, EAST STROUDSBURG SOUTH 10; OLD FORGE 35, Holy Redeemer 13; LACKAWANNA TRAIL 20, Honesdale 14; LAKELAND 35, North Pocono 6; WEST SCRANTON 28, Riverside 12; Scranton 20, PITTSTON AREA 7; VALLEY VIEW 30, Scranton Prep 27; Wallenpaupack 19, EAST STROUDSBURG NORTH 16.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
Johnson Holds On For California Win, Fontana, CA – Jimmie Johnson captured his fifth Nextel Cup win of the season as he survived one of the hottest events in NASCAR history. The temperature at the start of Sunday’s California race was close to 110 degrees and was still in the 90's at the finish of the 250 laps.
Jimmie Johnson celebrates his California win.
Photo courtesy of NASCAR
“We've been close, but it was nice to get the job done tonight,” said Johnson. “Historically, we start the season strong, have a little bit of a struggle when we get to the warm weather and then get it going again. It seems like that's the way it's going and I'm just glad to be back in victory lane.
“The season is all about a championship, especially when you get in the Chase. It's time for the pressure to pick up and the hard work to start. And my guys are ready for it.”
Trailing Johnson was Carl Edwards, last week's Bristol winner, and Kyle Busch, who looked like he had the car to beat in the first half of the race before the sun went down. Jeff Burton was fourth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was fifth.
Rounding out the top-10 were Matt Kenseth, Earnhardt teammate Martin Truex, Jr., Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Bobby Labonte.
Even though Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished fifth for the second consecutive week after leading the race six times for 15 laps, he is now 128 points behind 12th place Kevin Harvick (and last qualifier for the Chase),which means Junior is still mathematically eligible – though a very long shot.
If Harvick finishes last in the race next Saturday night in Richmond, Dale Jr. would have to finish fifth (and lead at least one lap) or better to earn a spot in the Chase.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), battled subtle but significant handling difficulties through the first three-quarters of Sunday night’s race, but still went on to lead a dozen laps during a late-race gamble for the victory and wound up with a 13th place finish.
The two-time Nextel Cup champion is still second in points, 317 behind series leader Jeff Gordon.
“It was just one of those nights when, from the beginning this weekend, we just never really got it right in race practice,” Stewart said. “The more the race went on, the more I could pick apart where we were at and what we needed to do.
“I think we know where we missed it. It was one of those deals where it was in the front end and not something we could change on a caution. It was something we needed to change on the scales and not on a pit stop. It required a precise change.”
Michael Waltrip's hard-luck season continued when a right front tire exploded after contact with Ricky Rudd and caved the fender in on the tire. Waltrip, trying to ride out the tire rub after 38 laps, hastily exited his Toyota when it burst into flames. The blown tire shattered oil lines which created a fire when the oil spattered on the exhaust headers.
Top 10 Chase Contenders with one race remaining before the 12-driver Chase For the Nextel Cup begins: 1. J. Gordon-3679, 2. Stewart-3362, 3. Hamlin-3335, 4. Edwards-3330, 5. Kenseth-3309, 6. Johnson-3249, 7. J. Burton-3219, 8. Kyle Busch-3199, 9. Bowyer-3047, 10. Truex-3042.
Gibbs Racing Switching To Toyota – It looks like Joe Gibbs Racing will switch to Toyota.
ESPN reported that JGR will announce next week its intentions to join Toyota Motorsports beginning next season. A news conference has been scheduled for Wednesday morning at JGR headquarters. Expected to be in attendance are JGR drivers Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin.
A GM official said the manufacturer would not comment.
Meanwhile, Bill Davis Racing, another one of Toyota’s racing team is going full speed ahead with their 2007 plans.
BDR has signed a contract extension with sponsor Caterpillar and expects to re-sign their driver Dave Blaney to continue driving the team's NO. 22 Toyota
The contract between BDR and Caterpillar is a multi-year deal, said Caterpillar director of racing operations Greg Towles.
Towles said the company decided to continue the relationship, even though the No. 22 team has struggled in recent years, because of two main factors – the team's improved performance in recent weeks and the promise of future success with Toyota.
“We've been real encouraged with the way the team has been running lately – we've had a couple of top 10s in the last few races,” said Towles, “And we think Toyota is going to bring a lot to NASCAR Nextel Cup.”
There has been no word from the three-car team of Michael Waltrip Racing about their future plans. MWR has struggled all season with each of the teams.
It has been reported that NAPA, the primary sponsor on Waltrip’s No. 55 has withheld payments when Waltrip failed to make a race.
Edwards Continues As Busch Leader – The top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Edwards-3828, 2. Harvick-3174, 3. Reutimann-3171, 4. Leffler-3042, 5. Ragan-2975, 6. Hamilton Jr.-2804, 7. Leicht-2688, 8. Ambrose-2677, 9. Biffle-2652, 10. M. Wallace-2597.
Hornaday Takes Over Truck Lead – The top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders: 1. Hornaday-2769, 2. Skinner-2765, 3. Kvapil-2575, 4. Bodine-2506, 5. Benson-2349, 6. Crawford-2326, 7. Musgrave-2122, 8. Sprague-2094, 9. Crafton-2087, 10. Darnell-2021.
Lee Petty: First Nascar Winner At Richmond – The 0.75-mile Richmond, Virginia track will celebrate 61 years of continuous operation.
On October 12, 1946, Ted Horn drove an open-wheel car to victory over the half-mile dirt track at Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds.
But it was Lee Petty that won the first NASCAR race held at Richmond.
NASCAR was founded in 1948, and five years later the sanctioning body staged a race in its Grand National Division in Richmond on April 19, 1953.
Since that first NASCAR race in Richmond, the track has undergone three name changes, five configuration changes and one surface change, from dirt to asphalt. Lights were also added to the facility in 1991.
Petty ran 36 races in 1953. He had five wins, but finished second to Herb Thomas in the final points standings. Total winnings for the year amounted to a whopping $18,447.
Petty’s racing career began in 1949. Unable to afford a new car for NASCAR’s first race at Charlotte in June, 1949, he borrowed a 1948 Buick Roadmaster from a family friend, packed up his wife Elizabeth and sons Richard and Maurice and headed to Charlotte.
From the grandstands, the family watched as Lee moved through the field that included Red Byron, Buck Baker and Curtis Turner. Lee was reeling them in until a sway bar broke on the big Buick, causing it to barrel-roll four times.
Lee received only a minor cut, but the car was torn up so bad that it took two wreckers to remove it from the track.
“Since we had driven the car to the track, we didn’t have a ride, and had to thumb our way home,” said Richard Petty.
Learning from his 1949 mistakes, Lee switched to a Plymouth coupe because it was lighter and more maneuverable than the heavier Buick. Throughout his career, Plymouth became the trademark of Petty Racing.
He won three NASCAR Grand National (later Winston Cup) Championships in 1954, ’58 and ’59. Throughout his career he was one of the most consistent drivers in racing. Between 1949 and 1959, he never finished below fourth in the final standings.
Even though he ran his first NASCAR race at the age of 35, he still managed to start 427 races, with 54 wins, and 231 top-fives. His winning percentage was 13 per cent.
THIS WEEK IN RACING
The Nextel and Busch teams are at Richmond, while the Craftsman Trucks have the weekend off.
Friday, September 7, Busch Series Richmond 250, race 28 of 35, 250 laps, 7:30 p.m. TV: ESPN2.
Saturday, September 8, Nextel Cup Chevy Monte Carlo 400, race 26 of 36, 400 laps, 7 p.m. TV: ESPN.
Racing Trivia Question: Where is the last Nextel Cup race of the season held?
Last Week’s Question: Which NASCAR racing facility has the largest track? Answer: Talladega Superspeedway at 2.66 miles. Daytona is second at 2.50 miles, while the road course at Watkins Glen comes in third at 2.45 miles.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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