KINGSTON — The final offensive play of Wyoming Valley West’s season, a mishandled shotgun snap, skittered away from the snake-bitten Spartans and into the hands of an anxious group of defenders from Abington Heights.
Which not only proved fitting for the game, but a perfect ending for the ball-hawking Comets.
Quarterback Colin McCreary produced three touchdowns on offense and made two of the game’s most pivotal plays on defense Friday. Abington Heights took the District 2 Class 5A championship away from turnover-plagued Valley West with a dominating 24-7 victory at Spartan Stadium.
“It just wasn’t in the cards for us tonight,” sighed Valley West coach Pat Keating.
The Spartans got that feeling early, when Abington Heights blocked a punt deep in Valley West territory and McCreary turned a 7-0 deficit into a tie game on the next play when he lofted a 19-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Nick Emmett.
It didn’t get much better from there for Valley West, which came off a first-round bye in the district tournament but finished at 10-3. The Comets (8-4) will host Whitehall in the District 2/11 subregional final at 1 p.m. on Nov. 19.
By the time the Spartans watched their final hope of scoring again slither away in the final minutes, they’d lost three fumbles and had an interception snatched away deep in Abington Heights territory.
All four turnovers thwarted potential scoring drives.
“They simply played better than we did tonight,” Keating said. “They were move physical than we were. They were more motivated and inspired than we were.”
Basically, the Comets just followed their leader.
McCreary polished off a 59-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard quarterback keeper to give Abington Heights a 14-7 lead on the opening drive of the second half.
Then, playing safety, he ripped the ball away from a Valley West runner at the Comets’ 35-yard line and returned the fumble 47 yards. Not done, he then used a 16-yard completion to set up his 1-yard scoring surge that gave Abington Heights a two-touchdown lead midway through the third quarter.
“I was able to go for the strip and came up with a big play,” McCreary said. “I just tried to create an opportunity. We were only up 14-7. It was a big swing of momentum for us.”
McCreary and the Comets kept it going.
They closed the third quarter and chewed up more than eight minutes of the fourth with an impressive 78-yard march that picked up five first downs and ended with McCreary’s 20-yard field goal.
That set the final score and made a Valley West comeback nearly impossible, giving the Comets a 24-7 lead with 3:54 to play.
“Once we had control, we tried to keep momentum in our hands,” McCreary said. “Up front, our line did a great job controlling them.”
Essentially, McCreary did everything he could think of to keep the Spartans from gaining the upper hand.
From his safety position, McCreary made another defensive play that frustrated the Spartans, taking an alert angle to run down speedy Sean Judge in the second quarter and stop the Spartans from scoring after a 62-yard dash down the right sideline.
The play paid off for Abington Heights moments later, when Emmett picked off a pass to keep the game tied at 7-7.
“We had a couple opportunities to jump up in the first half,” Keating said. “They made some plays when they had to.”
The Spartans came out strong, as Judge capped a 62-yard opening drive with a 6-yard touchdown run that gave Valley West an early lead.
But the Spartans didn’t score again.
And even their final hopes of reaching the end zone one last time was snatched away with that fumbled snap inside the Abington Heights 20-yard line — right after quarterback Aaron Austin connected on a 40-yard pass.
“It was the story of the game,” Keating said.
District 2 Class 5A Championship
Abington Heights 24, Valley West 7
Abington Heights`0`7`14`3 — 24
Wyo. Valley West`7`0`0`0 — 7
WVW — Sean Judge 6 run (Jake Gurtis kick), 4:36
AH — Nick Emmett 19 pass from Colin McCreary (McCreary kick), 9:39
AH — McCreary 3 run (McCreary kick), 9:50
AH — McCreary 1 run (McCreary kick), 5:02
AH — McCreary 20 FG, 3:54
RUSHING — AH, Colin McCreary 14-68, Anthony Duboski 15-66, Kaleb Sherman 5-18, Ben Vale 2-4, Brandon Hardy 1-2. WVW, Sean Judge 14-130, Aaron Austin 14-48, Zach Davies 5-22, Darrian Tyson 1-5, Rob Dwyer 1- (minus 9), Jake Blaski 1- (minus 10), TEAM 3- (minus 17).
PASSING — AH, McCreary 4-5-0-71. WVW, Austin 5-7-1-96.
RECEIVING — AH, Nick Kerekes 2-43, Emmett 1-19, Hardy 1-9. WVW, Judge 2-23, Logan Myers 1-40, Dwyer 1-22, Tyson 1-11.
INTERCEPTIONS — AH, Emmett 1-16.
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski