Tussey wins first one for new coach
Written by: Ryan Spring on Sunday, August 26th, 2018
By Ryan Spring
SAXTON — Tussey Mountain’s recent past hasn’t been as strong as those of the early part of this decade, so the Titans have their minds set on a new beginning in 2018.
And they were hoping to begin righting the ship with an opening night home game against Claysburg-Kimmel.
The Titans did so with a 42-28 victory in Anthony Sottasante’s first game as head coach in Saxton.
“It absolutely feels great to win tonight,” said Sottasante. “Claysburg’s a good football team, and they had a lot more experience coming back than we did. But I can’t say enough about the work ethic of our kids. I’m so proud of them and our coaching staff.”
The Titans also had many of the breaks go their way, none more important than early in the third quarter while clinging to a 16-12 lead.
They moved over 60 yards in four plays and were set up inside the Claysburg 10 on second down. Cole Weist took an inside handoff, but was met by two Bulldog defenders and the ball popped up in the air behind him.
However, freshman lineman Aaron Day scooped it up off Weist’s back and barreled into the end zone at the 8:55 mark. A two-point run failed, but it was 22-12.
Tussey’s defense stopped Claysburg, and the offense put more points on the board quickly. Weist, who led all rushers with 121 yards in the game, dominated most of the 57-yard drive on four runs. Matt Leonard’s 19-yard pass to Kaden Lucko put the Titans on the doorstep, and Lucko hit the end zone from a yard out on the next play. That made it 28-12 with 6:04 remaining in the third.
Once again, the Titan defense did its job, and the special teams got into the act with a blocked punt that ended at the Claysburg 2-yard line.
Weist punched it in, and a pass from Noah Foor to Leonard for two gave the hosts a 36-12 advantage going into the final quarter.
Claysburg scored at the 8:52 mark of the fourth, on a 6-yard pass from Corey Chamberlain to R.J. Helsel, and Chamberlain’s two-pointer gave the Bulldogs hope.
But a 26-yard scamper to paydirt by Tussey’s Kaden Lucko in the final two minutes sealed the victory.
“We made some big plays, but we didn’t string enough together,” said first-year Bulldogs’ coach Matt Bilchak. “One thing we stressed this week was the self-inflicted wounds, and we hurt ourselves with the punt block and some other plays.”
In a game that featured 70 points, the first quarter was played to a scoreless draw.
The Titans’ defense tallied the opening points, on a fumble return by Foor. The play was much Day’s touchdown later on, as Foor plucked the ball out of midair deep in CK territory and found his way to the end zone. A two-point run by Weist had Tussey Mountain ahead, 8-0.
Helsel’s kickoff return to the 50-yard line set the Bulldogs up nicely, and they used five plays and a Tussey penalty to score themselves, on a 16-yard pass from Chamberlain to Kobe Harr. But the visitors misfired on a conversion attempt.
And it took all of one snap for the Titans to strike back. From the 38, Leonard dropped back and looked deep for Brady Villa, who caught the ball in stride and raced 62 yards for the score. Weist ran the two-pointer in again for a 16-6 edge with 4:06 left before halftime.
After punts by each team, Claysburg was driving late and had a final chance prior to the half, inside Tussey’s 10-yard line with four seconds to go.
Chamberlain hit Harr on a screen pass, and the receiver broke two tackles only to be stopped a yard short of the end zone.
“I was proud of our boys for working through the adversity,” said Bilchak. “They had every reason to quit and they stayed with it. We showed a lot of heart, and I think that’s something we can build on.”
Sottasante credited the players in the trenches for his side.
“The players have really bought into what we’re doing.” he said. “Those kids up front worked hard. They wanted to come out and set the tone. These kids have been through some tough times, and it’s great to see them play like that tonight.”
GAME NOTES — Neither team attempted an extra point in the game. … Leonard completed 13 of 21 passes for 180 yards. … Chamberlain finished with 17 completions for 131 yards. … The teams combined for eight fumbles but only two were lost. … Tussey Mountain, 1-0, hosts Everett next Friday, while Claysburg, 0-1, is home with Williamsburg.
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