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Montrose started building momentum on the football field with a win over another struggling team and an arch rival – or in the case of two games against Susquehanna, a team that fit both descriptions.
The Meteors, however, stepped into entirely different territory Friday night with a victory that suddenly increases the significance of a four-game winning streak dating back to the end of last season.
Levi Tiffany, Andy Burgh and Mike Rihl produced the big plays that backed a strong defensive effort and carried Montrose to a 21-7 victory over defending District 2 Class A and Lackawanna Football Conference Division III champion Lackawanna Trail.
The Meteors headed into the final two weeks of the 2007 season with an 0-8 record. One of those losses was reversed to a forfeit win and Montrose won its final two games on the field to end up 3-7. Now, the Meteors are 2-0 with hopes of continuing that improvement.
Tiffany’s 45-yard interception return started a comeback that included Burgh’s 68-yard touchdown pass from Rob Volk and Rihl’s 64-yard run.
Trail looked tough early, taking the opening kickoff and controlling the ball for more than half of the first quarter to produce a 3-yard touchdown by Brandon Burns. The Lions then stopped the Meteors with an interception on their first possession.
The 7-0 lead held up until the final three minutes of the half when Montrose scored twice to move in front.
Tiffany, who made the move from fullback to offensive lineman this season, made the most of a surprise chance to run with the ball again. After the pass rush forced a weak pass, Tiffany picked it off and returned it for a touchdown. The first of Rick Buckley’s three straight successful extra-point kicks tied the game, 7-7.
Burgh followed with another interception, setting up his go-ahead touchdown catch-and-run right before halftime.
The Meteors added to the lead late in the third quarter when Rihl ran off the left side, broke a tackle and took off for the touchdown.
Rihl finished with 12 carries for 121 yards. Burgh caught two passes for 83 yards.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Western Wayne broke a 41-game football losing streak when it went to Susquehanna Friday night and posted a 21-6 victory.
The Sabers fell to 0-2.
The Wildcats used the same passing combination to post their first win since the end of the 2003 season. Joe Siclari found Joe Vonderhey with two touchdown passes in the final two minutes of the half, then another in the fourth quarter after Susquehanna had closed within eight points.
Stephen Andujar’s 12-yard run capped a long Susquehanna scoring drive to close within, 14-6.
In other high school sports, several Susquehanna County teams are off to strong starts.
Mountain View is 2-0 and the only unbeaten left in Lackawanna League North Division girls’ soccer.
Elk Lake is 2-0 and along in first place of Lackawanna Division 2 boys’ soccer where Valley View is 1-0.
Blue Ridge and Forest City are 2-0 to share first place in Lackawanna Division 3 boys’ soccer.
Susquehanna is 2-0 to share first place with Dunmore in Lackawanna girls’ volleyball.
Both Elk Lake cross country teams are again near the top of the standings.
Elk Lake, Blue Ridge and Montrose are 3-0 in girls’ cross country, tied for third and among the eight Lackawanna unbeatens out of 23 teams. Elk Lake is 3-0 in boys’ cross country and second among the seven unbeatens.
Mountain View is 2-1 and in a four-way tie for second in Lackawanna Division 1 boys’ soccer.
Montrose is 4-1 and in third place out of 12 teams in Lackawanna North golf where Forest City is tied for fourth at 3-1-1.
In professional football, Montrose graduate Chris Snee was again in the starting lineup at offensive guard as the New York Giants opened defense of their National Football League title with a 16-7 victory over the Washington Redskins.
Snee was part of an offensive line that helped the team average 4.8 yards per carry with Brandon Jacobs gaining 116 yards on 21 carries. The Giants were to able to build a 35:43-24:17 advantage in time of possession.
In professional baseball, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees defeated the Pawtucket Red Sox, 2-0, in 10 innings Sunday to complete a three games to one victory in the International League semifinals.
The deciding game turned into a pitchers’ duel between Yankees prospect Phil Hughes and former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon, both of whom have had their seasons sidetracked by injuries.
Hughes struck out 11 while giving up four hits in eight scoreless innings.
Colon retired the last 16 batters he faced, giving up just two hits in 7 2/3 innings.
Neither one walked a batter.
“I felt like I had my best stuff,” Hughes said. “He was throwing the ball equally well.
“It’s one of those things that sometimes you run into two guys who are on like that in the playoffs.”
Kellie Sussman, a senior from Elk Lake, and Brackney Brotzman, a freshman from Montrose, are both starting at forward for Keystone College in its return to field hockey this season.
Sussman scored the goal that started a comeback from a 2-0 deficit to a 3-2 overtime victory over Bryn Mawr in the school’s NCAA Division III debut in the sport.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Montrose (2-0) is at Old Forge (1-1) and Susquehanna (0-2) is at Holy Cross (1-1) in non-division football games Friday night.
Our high school football predictions for the last week were 11-3 (78.6 percent), including three games in which the exact winning margin was predicted – Scranton Prep by eight over North Pocono, Lakeland by 20 over Mid Valley and Wallenpaupack by 20 over East Stroudsburg North. Our season record is 20-6 (76.9 percent).
This week’s predictions, with home teams in CAPS: Montrose 13, OLD FORGE 7; Susquehanna 20, HOLY CROSS 19; Mid Valley 13, WESTERN WAYNE 7; LAKELAND 35, Carbondale 13; Abington Heights 9, VALLEY VIEW 7; WYOMING VALLEY WEST 14, Delaware Valley 13; East Stroudsburg North 22, HONESDALE 20; RIVERSIDE 34, North Pocono 13; Scranton 20, EAST STROUDSBURG SOUTH 17; WALLENPAUPACK 30, Pocono Mountain East 20; Dunmore 17, WEST SCRANTON 7; SCRANTON PREP 17, Lackawanna Trail 6.
In professional baseball, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees are playing the Durham Bulls in the IL championship series. The first two games were scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at PNC Field in Moosic.
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 Gets Richmond Win, Richmond, VA – Jimmie Johnson held off Tony Stewart in the closing laps of Sunday’s rain-delayed Rock & Roll 400 for his second win in two weeks, and the fourth of the season.
Jimmie Johnson, winner of Sunday's Richmond Cup race.
The two-time defending Cup champion passed Tony Stewart for the lead with 34 laps to go at Richmond International Raceway.
Stewart, who has not won in the last 31 races, got underneath Johnson with 12 laps remaining in the 400-lap race. Johnson was running the outside groove, and Stewart was on his inside. Stewart was able to get the nose of his No. 20 ahead of Johnson on one lap, but he was never able to make the pass, and had to settle for the runner-up spot.
“It’s hard not to feel like we are peaking at this time,” said Johnson. “It’s just a lot of hard work and we’re coming to some good tracks. I think the 48-car team is going to be ready for this championship battle.”
Stewart was clearly disgusted with his second place finish. He stormed away from his car after the race and refused to answer reporters’ questions.
Denny Hamlin registered his third consecutive third-place finish.
“We made a run at the very end,” said Hamlin. “Our car was pretty good. We got too far behind in the middle stage of the race. We were just too loose, but we did what we had to do to get into the Chase.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a good car, led several laps, but was not able to run with the leaders near the end. He came in fourth.
Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, David Reutimann, and Kurt Busch were the remaining top-10 finishers.
Clint Bowyer at one point was in danger of dropping out of Chase contention, but his 12th place finish moved him up seven positions, to fifth.
“This has been a roller coaster, with all the emotions,” said Bowyer. “We’ve had a good car one week, and then we lose track position and wind up with a bad finish, and wind up on the outside looking in. We just kept our heads on and here we are.”
Matt Kenseth was the 12th and last driver to make the Chase field.
Kasey Kahne finished 19th, missing the Chase by 69 points. David Ragan also had a chance, but wound up eight points behind Kahne.
The field for the 2008 Cup championship has been reset for the final 10 races: 1. Kyle Busch-5080, 2. Edwards-5050, 3. Johnson-5040, 4. Earnhardt-5010, 5. Bowyer-5010, 6. Hamlin-5010, 7. Burton-5010, 8. Stewart-5000, 9. Biffle-5000, 10. J. Gordon-5000, 11. Harvick-5000, 12. Kenseth-5000.
The first of 10 Chase races begins next weekend at New Hampshire.
Remaining top-25 drivers who did not make the Chase; 13. Kahne-3047, 14. Ragan-3039, 15. Vickers-2854, 16. Newman-2853, 17. Truex-2818, 18. McMurray-2659, 19. Kurt Busch-2622, 20. B. Labonte-2497, 21. Montoya-2487, 22. Sadler-2477, 23. Kvapil-2477, 24. Mears-2434, 25. Reutimann-2427.
Top 10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders after 17 of 25: 1. Benson-2596, 2. Hornaday-2502, 3. Crafton-2397, 4. Bodine-2347, 5. Skinner-2323, 6. Crawford-2307, 7. Darnell-2289, 8. Sprague-2233, 9. Setzer-2165, 10. Cook-2158.
Joe Gibbs Racing – Joe Gibbs Racing is a group of NASCAR racing teams owned and operated by Joe Gibbs, who first started racing on the NASCAR circuit in 1991. The team has three Cup Championships (Tony Stewart 2002, ’06, Bobby Labonte 2000). They also run cars in other lower-tier NASCAR series for driver development.
Despite past success with General Motors and winning three championships with Pontiacs and Chevrolets, the team switched to Toyotas in 2008, with much success.
All three of the JGR drivers; Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, and Denny Hamlin will be in this year’s Chase for the Championship, but with three competitive drivers, there appears to be a “Race Within a Race.”
Kyle Busch has been the hot one this year, winning eight of the first 22 races. Denny Hamlin had one victory (Bristol), while Stewart is still winless.
Busch is now the most-dominant driver in the Cup Series. He has eight Cup, seven Nationwide and three Craftsman Truck series wins this season.
Some see him as the most skillful driver to come along in a while, like Gordon or Tony Stewart. Others view him as an arrogant youngster, who has a “race-to-win at all cost” style while desiring to be raced more cleanly by other drivers.
Whether you like or hate him, he will go into the Chase as number one.
Stewart, like Hamlin, is almost sure to make the Chase, but to be considered a real contender for the championship, he and his team need a boost. A victory - Stewart has never had a winless season - would kick in the momentum.
“How you get into the Chase is the same way you win the Chase,” said Stewart. “You've got to go out there, and you've got to be good. You've got to be good in 26 races to get in the Chase, and then you've got to be good for 10 races after that to win the Chase.”
Hamlin said the last pair of races have really sparked the team and have reminded him of how well they can perform. He is attempting to make his third consecutive Chase, having finished third as a rookie and 12th last season.
“I think California and Bristol were really important for this team because those races reminded me a lot of the way we ran in 2006 and 2007 when we were really consistent and running in the top five pretty regularly,” he said. “We need to get back to that, and I think those races are a good sign for this team heading to Richmond and hopefully into the Chase. At Richmond, even with a little more of a buffer in terms of points, and as much as I want to win, we are focused on getting into the Chase.”
JGR has had its share of problems this season, but with all three of their teams making the Chase, it certainly can’t be considered a bad year.
Next Week: What to Expect From the Chase.
The first of 10 Chase Sprint Cup races begins this weekend at New Hampshire. The Craftsman Trucks will share the weekend at the 1.058-mile track with the Cup cars. The Nationwide Series has the weekend off.
Saturday, September 13: Craftsman Trucks New Hampshire 200, 2:30 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Sunday, September 14: Sprint Cup Sylvania 300, 1 p.m. TV: ABC.
Racing Trivia Question: Which team will Ryan Newman drive for in 2009?
Last Week’s Question: Where is Carl Edwards' home town? Answer: Columbia, Missouri.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corey Hillis was not in the starting lineup for the first game of his senior season as a two-way lineman on the Montrose football team.
By the end of the night, Hillis’ status had changed.
Hillis entered the game early and wound up leading the Montrose defense as the Meteors defeated rival Susquehanna, 28-6.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder went into the opener as a key sub at both nose guard and linebacker. Hillis returned a fumble 34 yards to the Susquehanna 25 to set up a touchdown that gave Montrose a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Hillis finished with six tackles, including one for a two-yard loss. He assisted on two other tackles, one of which was also for a five-yard loss.
For his efforts, Hillis is the latest Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month.
“He’s slightly undersized for a lineman, but it doesn’t matter because he brings emotion to the game,” Montrose coach Jack Keihl said. “He has a motor that doesn’t stop.”
The fumble return came after Susquehanna had moved to the Montrose 32 on its best threat until trailing by 28 points with six minutes left. Instead of the Sabers moving in for a potential tie, Hillis sent the game in the other direction, helping Montrose break out to a comfortable lead.
“He gets everyone fired up with the way he plays,” Keihl said.
After the opener, Keihl said he expected Hillis, who is a guard on offense, to see even more playing time as the season progresses.
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