YATESVILLE — There was one play in Coughlin’s repertoire that Pittston Area just couldn’t stop. Crusader quarterback Jake Soller made it work.
With a direct snap through the middle of the line, Soller had four touchdowns of 65 or more yards. His prowess helped Coughlin (5-2) overcome early-game hardships and take a 42-13 win over Pittston Area (0-7) Friday night at Charley Trippi Stadium.
Soller finished the game with 14 carries for 278 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s been doing that for the past two years,” Coughlin coach Ciro Cinti said. “He’s a great kid and works extremely hard at it. When the game’s on the line it’s nice to have a kid like him with the ball.”
Soller had touchdown runs of 1, 74, 80 and 65 on the night. The majority came on that same play up the middle of the Pittston Area defense. His nearly 20 yards per carry kept the winless Pittston Area team at bay after trailing by just a touchdown at halftime.
Cinti wasn’t especially happy with how his team performed in the first half. He noted his team’s inability to tackle Pittston Area runners. The Patriots had one of their finest first halves of the season, racking up nearly 200 yards of offense. But it was Soller and kick returner Michael Brown that kept Coughlin out in front.
Following two straight Pittston Area three-and-outs to start the game, Soller’s 74-yard touchdown came on the first play of the Crusaders’ second possession. But Pittston Area answered.
The Patriots put together an 8-play, 69-yard drive to tie the game. On that drive, the Patriots converted three straight first downs with runs from quarterback Walter Coles, Kyle Petroski and Ryan Davis. Pittston Area found pay dirt when Coles hit Petroski for a three-yard touchdown.
“I think we have a nice group of younger guys that are finding their way in varsity football games,” Pittston Area coach Jim Norris said. “We’ve battled a lot of injuries and our character is being tested as a program. The guys are responding.”
The ensuing kickoff, however, is a sign of what the Patriots have been fighting all season.
Coughlin kick returner Brown took the kickoff from Michael Mikitish at his own 20. Fifteen seconds later, the Crusaders were celebrating his 80-yard return and their second lead of the game.
Coles threw an interception on the Patriots next possession. From there, the Crusaders drove 65 yards capped off by Soller’s 1-yard touchdown.
The Patriots kept it close going into the half with a touchdown late in the second quarter. A 71-yard drive was capped off when Davis fumbled into the end zone and Paul Brady scooped it up for the score.
Pittston Area’s offense pretty much went flat in the second half. The Crusaders made some adjustments, Cinti said, and it showed. The Patriots had less than 100 yards in the second half and crossed midfield just once the rest of the way.
“We’re close at halftime in a lot of games,” Norris said. “We’re improving as a program but we’re not quite there yet.”
In the second half, Soller had touchdown runs of 80 and 65 yards. Jevron Young added Coughlin’s final touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
“We weren’t very good in the first half,” Cinti said. “Pittston Area played very inspired football. We didn’t tackle very well in the first half but we did some of those things better in the second half.”
Coughlin 42, Pittston Area 13
C — Jacob Soller 74 run (Michael Cinti kick), 3:28
PA — Kyle Petroski 3 pass from Walter Coles (Michael Mikitish kick), 11:54
C — Michael Brown 80 kickoff return (kick failed), 11:40
C — Soller 1 run (Cinti kick), 6:02
PA — Paul Brady fumble recovery (kick failed), 1:32
C — Soller 80 run (Cinti kick), 6:48
C — Soller 65 run (Cinti kick), 10:08
C — Jevron Young 7 run (kick blocked), 6:33
C — Team safety, 3:56
RUSHING — VIS, Coles 14-93, Ryan Davis 16-51, Petroski 8-30, Keemar Woodruff 3-8, Trevor Tigue 2-7. C, Soller 14-278 4TD, Young 2-23 TD, Zach King 7-19, Eric Sovan 3-10, Vincent Todd 2-1, Vance Cullen 2-0.
PASSING — PA, Coles 7-14-76-1 TD. C, Soller 1-4-34-0.
RECEIVING — PA, Nic Anastasi 1-28, Brady 1-25, Niko Cinquegrani 2-14, Petroski 2-9 TD. C, Nick Zalaffi 1-34.
INTERCEPTIONS — C, Brown 1-0.
MISSED FGs — None.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-602-0178 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick