WILKES-BARRE — As soon as the football hit the field, Coughlin quarterback Jacob Soller knew he had made a mistake Saturday night.
It was a miscommunication, said Coughlin coach Ciro Cinti. Soller wasn’t supposed the spike the ball, especially on a third-and-2 with just over a minute remaining and the Crusaders with two timeouts and trailing by four.
A play later, the miscue didn’t matter. Soller darted up the middle on fourth down for a 29-yard touchdown, giving Coughlin a 27-24 victory over Wyoming Area in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 3A game.
Coughlin (6-2) now heads to Berwick (6-2) next Friday with the WVC Division 3A title on the line. Wyoming Area fell to 2-6.
Soller’s run with one minute left completed a 67-yard drive. He ran the ball all but once during the six-play drive, accounting for all the yards as he finished with 194 in the night.
But on a third-and-2 from the Wyoming Area 29-yard line, Soller thought he heard Cinti tell him to spike the ball to stop the clock.
“You just got to hope the guy in front of you can block for you and you get that first down,” Soller said. “You just forget about it and keep going forward.”
He did all the way to the end zone, but the Warriors still had a minute to work with.
Wyoming Area hit a couple short passes, but couldn’t get to the sideline to stop the clock. On a third-and-1 from the Coughlin 45-yard line, the Warriors connected on a hook-and-lateral play for nine more yards. They had a touchdown on the same type of play negated earlier on a penalty.
After two incompletions, Wyoming Area had no choice other than to send kicker Dave Klaproth out for a 53-yard field goal attempt with six seconds remaining. Klaproth had connected on a 42-yard field goal earlier, his sixth of the season and the longest this year in the WVC.
The 53-yard attempt, though, didn’t have enough distance or elevation.
“At that point, we had to give Klaproth a shot,” Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer said. “He certainly has the leg, and it would have been an exceptional kick. In that situation, you have to give him a shot.”
Coughlin led 20-10 at halftime. Soller threw 50 yards to a wide-open Nick Zalaffi for one touchdown and Vincent Todd ran 73 yards for another in the first quarter. Soller closed out the first-half scoring with a 6-yard run 45 seconds until the break.
Wyoming Area, though, moved within 20-17 when Donovan O’Boyle returned an interception for a touchdown at 5:59 of the third quarter. The Warriors took a 24-20 lead with 3:06 left in the fourth on 13-yard run by O’Boyle.
“They are a tough team,” Cinti said. “I told (Wyoming Area assistant) coach (Rich) Musinski it was going to come down to the last possession. They played Dallas, Berwick tooth-and-nail. They’re a tough bunch of kids. Soller was the difference.”
Coughlin 27, Wyoming Area 24
WA — Brian Miles 29 run (Dave Klaproth kick), 10:29
COU — Nick Zalaffi 50 pass from Jacob Soller (kick failed), 9:51
COU — Vincent Todd 73 run (Cinti kick), 5:53
WA — Klaproth 42 FG, 5:53
COU — Soller 6 run (Mike Cinti kick), 0:45
WA — Donovan O’Boyle 40 interception return (Klaproth kick), 5:59
WA — O’Boyle 13 run (Klaproth kick), 3:06
COU — Soller 29 run (Cinti kick), 1:00
RUSHING — WA, Miles 12-75, PJ Angeli 2-8, O’Boyle 12-31, Steve Homza 7-8. Coughlin, Soller 24-194, Eric Sovan 3-11, Todd 9-121, Jevron Young 2-4, Chris Wright 3-11, team 1-0.
PASSING — WA, Angeli 0-1-0-0, Homza 10-18-0-127. Coughlin, Soller 1-5-1-50, team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — WA, Miles 2-25, Kyler Higgins 2-19, Angeli 3-26, O’Boyle 1-19, Dante Deluca 1-30, Anthony Saitta 1-8. Coughlin, Zalaffi 1-50.
INTERCEPTIONS — WA, O’Boyle 1-40.
MISSED FGs — WA, 53S. Coughlin 28WR.
Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar