CLINTON TWP. — When Lackawanna Trail quarterback Nate Rolka hurdled an Old Forge defender on his way to a 6-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, it appeared the Lions may have sealed the win.
However, instead of Lackawanna Trail taking a double-digit lead, the points were taken off the board and the Lions were assessed a 15-yard penalty as high school players are not allowed to hurdle defenders.
Rolka’s next three passes fell incomplete and Old Forge took over on downs. Three plays later, the Blue Devils regained the lead and held on to defeat the Lions, 28-21, in a Lackawanna Football Conference Division 4 game Oct. 5.
“We go in for a score and it gets called back,” Lackawanna Trail head coach Steve Jervis said. “It was one of those situations where our guy didn’t realize that was a foul. He made a very athletic play, but we can’t give up the long strike.”
Old Forge quarterback Dante Lucarelli made two key plays in the fourth quarter to help his team earn the victory.
First, with the Devils backed up on their own 17-yard line, he scrambled 18 yards for a first down. Then, two plays later, he connected with Anthony Rios for a 61-yard touchdown to give Old Forge a 22-21 lead with 3:04 left in the game.
“We never give up,” Lucarelli said. “We knew we had to get on the field and score. In the huddle, we weren’t down or upset; we were pumped up and ready.
“The atmosphere was absolutely crazy. Lackawanna Trail is a very well-coached team and so are we. It’s a great game every time we go head-to-head.”
According to Old Forge head coach Mike Schuback, the big play was concocted during the game.
“We drew it up on the sideline because we were hitting them with the swing (pass),” Schuback said. “We said ‘you have a two-man read, just let it fly.’ (Dante) made a nice throw, Anthony ran a really good route and the rest is history.
“I told (Dante) I was going to give him the paper we drew it up on.”
Old Forge took an 8-0 lead with 5:13 left in the first quarter when Michael DiGregorio ran 12 yards for a touchdown and also converted the two-point attempt.
Lackawanna Trail quickly responded when Jeffrey Resto returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown.
Resto broke off a long run into Old Forge territory early in the second quarter, but the ball popped out of his hands and Tommy Souriyavong recovered it at the Blue Devils 36-yard line.
Trail had another quality scoring change stopped by a turnover when Rolka and Cody Moyle botched the exchange on a handoff at the Old Forge 1-yard line during the final minute of the first half.
“I felt our kids were very resilient, but a lot of times the game of football comes down to the amount of mistakes and tonight we made too many,” Jervis said.
Lackawanna Trail took the lead, 13-8, when Rolka scored on a 2-yard run on the first possession of the second half.
A 50-yard pass from Rolka to Resto helped set up the touchdown.
“They’re a very good football team,” Schuback said. “Nathan is a great player and he’s surrounded by a lot of talented kids.”
Old Forge went back ahead, 16-13, with 5:03 left in the third quarter when Souriyavong took a screen pass from Lucarelli and raced 51 yards down the sideline.
Trail regained the lead, 21-16, when Rolka connected with Jordan Edwards for a 14-yard touchdown with less than a minute left in the third.
The Devils added a touchdown as time was expiring in the game when Souriyavong scored on a 29-yard scamper.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.