HONESDALE — The Hornets displayed a great deal of poise and character Friday night in posting a wild win over longtime rival Carbondale Area.
For the majority of this Lackawanna Football Conference crossover contest, Honesdale appeared destined for another heartbreaking loss.
The Red & Black committed one egregious mistake after another on a rain-saturated field, piling up more than 100 yards in penalties...a fact that left Coach Jim Ludwig shaking his head in disbelief.
"Boy, we were our own worst enemy out there weren't we?" he asked rhetorically. "I've never seen so many penalties. We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot over and over again."
Kevin Miller was quick to agree. Honesdale's junior quarterback would eventually play the hero in this one, but Miller took responsibility for the Hornets' mid-game offensive struggles.
"I made some dumb mistakes, so I was really happy that I got a chance to make up for them," he said. "I just didn't want to let my teammates down."
Whatever mistakes he made earlier in the game, Miller certainly atoned for them when it mattered most. Kevin scored a late 4th quarter touchdown, then dove in for the 2-point conversion which proved to be the difference in a 16-15 Hornet victory.
"What a great win!" Coach Ludwig exclaimed with rain falling and jubilant, mud-covered players celebrating all around him. Let's hope this is some kind of turning point for the kids."
Honesdale opened the LFC campaign with three straight losses, but the Hornets have now posted back-to-back wins and improved their record to 2-3.
Next on the agenda for the Red & Black is a Week Six road trip to highly-regarded Dunmore. That games is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff Friday night.
"We'll definitely enjoy this for a little while," Miller said. "Carbondale is a good team and they played hard, but we never gave up. This is a huge win for us."
On the Attack
Friday's game began with clear and dry conditions, but things quickly began to deteriorate.
By halftime, a steady mist was falling and patchy fog enveloped the entire complex...which made cutting on the wet turf and throwing the ball downfield an adventure.
Honesdale's error-prone outing began on the opening possession when its offensive line was flagged four times. By the time this game was over, Jerry McGonigle's veteran officiating crew called a mind-boggling 16 penalties on the Hornets.
Somehow, though, the Red & Black managed to overcome this ugly performance. Linebacker Taylor Dux and defensive end Jonathan Gillow each trapped a Carbondale ballcarrier behind the line, forcing the Chargers to punt.
Page 2 of 3 - Moments later, Honesdale used this momentum to break the scoring ice.
Miller found Kyle Carney wide open on a throwback, a play that covered 40 yards and gave the Hornets a first and goal at the one.
After another penalty pushed the ball back to the six, Carney scampered in on a counter.
Kyle also tacked on the 2-point conversion and with 3:49 left in the first quarter, the home team had itself an 8-0 lead.
Carbondale retaliated early in the second stanza, thanks in large part to the nifty running of Brandon Sales. The Chargers' slippery tailback jitterbugged his way to an 11-yard touchdown.
Quarterback Joe Gigliotti knotted the score at 8-8 when he passed to Remington Heddon for the 2-point conversion.
Down the Stretch
The visitors wasted no time in taking the lead after intermission.
Sales once again spearheaded Carbondale's offensive attack. Brandon ripped of two long runs on the Chargers' opening possession, the second of which went for 42 yards and a touchdown.
When Jarrod Arendt hammered home the PAT, Honesdale suddenly trailed 15-8 with 10:40 left in the third quarter.
It was at this point that the Red & Black defense began asserting itself. Nick Maritato, Timmy Russell, Ron Krempasky and Gillow delivered one huge play after another, frustrating Carbondale at every turn.
"Our defense came up huge when we needed it most and that was the difference," Coach Ludwig said. "Those kids showed a ton of heart out there. They refused to quit even when their backs were up against the wall."
The highlight of Honesdale's clutch defensive performance came late in the third period. Carbondale was knocking on the door, but couldn't simply punch the ball in. Krempasky brought the the home fans to their feet with a diving deflection of Gigliotti's 4th down pass at the pylon to finish off this goal line stand.
From there, the Hornets took control of the game. The Red & Black forced back-to-back Charger punts and then began the gamewinning drive at their own 28-yardline.
Miller ignited this march by escaping the clutches of two would-be tacklers, then scrambling 33 yards to the Carbondale 21. Three plays later, Kevin broke free again, this time dragging a tackler with him across the goal line.
Miller's 16-yard touchdown run closed the deficit to a single point at 15-14.
Then, despite the fact that 5:19 remained on the clock, Coach Ludwig decided to go for two points and the lead. Miller played the hero once again, sprinting to the right corner and diving in just ahead of three Charger pursuers.
"There was never really any doubt," he said of the call. "The only hestitation was on exactly what play to call."
Page 3 of 3 - Miller picks up the narrative at this point.
"We were always going for two," he said with a smile. "We spread it out a little bit and ran our option. I saw the corner and just went for it."
Score by Quarters...
HON (2-3) 8 0 0 8 - 16
CAR (2-3) 0 8 7 0 - 15