SCRANTON — With one long, punishing drive on its first possession, Lake-Lehman seemed to show the formula it would need to produce an upset.
With a series of quick strikes throughout the second quarter, Scranton Prep made it clear that nobody was going to get in the way of its third straight District 2 Class 3A football championship.
Leo O’Boyle hit eight straight passes, three of them for touchdowns, and the Cavaliers allowed just one first down after the opening drive while scoring the game’s final 51 points in a 54-7 rout at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
O’Boyle hit seven different receivers during his streak, which included a pair of touchdown passes 13 seconds apart late in the half.
“You give up 14 points in a minute against the number-two ranked team in the state and what are you going to do?” Lake-Lehman coach Jerry Gilsky said. “Then, with the field position, we couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
A mishandled kickoff allowed the Cavaliers to put the two quick scores together.
Another fumble that the Scranton Prep defense turned into a touchdown, started the turnaround by the Cavaliers.
Lake-Lehman turned to Matt Kurtz 10 times in a 15-play, 79-yard drive that took 7:44 off the clock and gave the Black Knights a 7-3 lead in the last minute of the first quarter. The touchdown came when Zach Kojadinovich took an inside reverse 11 yards on third-and-8.
“We had the seven-minute drive in the first quarter,” Gilsky said. “We knew that we needed those 3-yard gains, 3 ½-yard gains, to keep the ball out of their hands.”
The Black Knights protected their lead when Frank Kutz and Jarrett Cummings led a defensive effort in the goal-line stand that stopped the Cavaliers on downs at the 4 with 7:58 left in the second quarter.
Scranton Prep turned a 7-3 deficit into a 24-7 lead in the last 6:22 of the half.
The Cavaliers stacked up Kurtz on a third-down run and ripped the ball loose. Sam Dickson picked it up and went 7 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
“The whole defense was in on that guy,” said Ivan Balavage, a Scranton Prep senior linebacker from Avoca, who scored two touchdowns and made eight tackles, including two for losses. “We always say, ‘Wrap him up, then someone go for the ball.’
“I guess that finally worked for us.”
Balavage dove to the pylon to finish off a 16-yard touchdown pass from O’Boyle with 1:10 left in the half.
O’Boyle then hit Cree Coccodrilli on a tight end screen for a 17-yard touchdown on the first play after the fumbled kickoff.
Scranton Prep, which improved to 12-0, moves into the state playoffs where it will face Loyalsock, a 35-6 winner over Danville in Friday’s District 4 championship game.
Matt Gilmartin, who had his 100-yard rushing night spoiled by the game’s only penalty, scored third-quarter touchdowns on a 3-yard run and a 40-yard pass from O’Boyle.
The Cavaliers pinned the Black Knights the only time they did not score in the second half and picked up a safety on a punt snap through the end zone.
Balavage then carried three times for 60 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown to send the game into the Mercy Rule at 47-7 with 9:51 left.
Lake-Lehman finished 7-5.
SP – Alec Buttner 31 field goal, 8:25
LL – Zach Kojadinovich 11 run (Henry Selingo kick), 0:41
SP – Sam Dickson 7 fumble return (Buttner kick), 6:22
SP – Ivan Balavage 16 pass from Leo O’Boyle (Buttner kick), 1:10
SP – Cree Coccodrilli 17 pass from O’Boyle (Buttner kick), 0:57
SP – Matt Gilmartin 3 run (Buttner kick), 7:52
SP – Gilmartin 40 pass from O’Boyle (Buttner kick), 4:15
SP – Safety (punt snap out of end zone), 11:01
SP – Balavage 28 run (Buttner kick), 9:51
SP – Nick Terrery 10 run (Buttner kick), 2:09
RUSHING — LL, Matt Kurtz 17-71, Zach Kojadinovich 6-29, Trey Borger 11-20, Nate O’Donnell 4-5, Jake Ferguson 2-4, Floyd McRoy 1-0. SP, Matt Gilmartin 20-98, Ivan Balavage 3-60, Leo O’Boyle 5-39, Ryan Cosgrove 3-25, Brayden McAllister 1-13, Nick Terrery 1-10, Mitchell 1-8, Cullen Chesnick 1-5.
PASSING — LL, O’Donnell 2-5-0-5. SP, O’Boyle 8-10-0-137.
RECEIVING — LL, Nate LaBar 1-4, Borger 1-1. SP, Lucas Stage 2-26, Gilmartin 1-40, Sam Dickson 1-28, Cree Coccodrilli 1-17, Balavage 1-16, Simon 1-8, Luke Johnson 1-2.
INTERCEPTIONS — None.
MISSED FIELD GOALS – None.