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The Bell Game: Knights defeat the Invaders 43-25

Tagged under: District 2, Gameday Hub, News

| September 9, 2023

When it comes to rivalry games, both teams usually get very motivated to win no matter how their current season is going. The Scranton Knights came into the Bell game with a 2-0 record and off of a shutout win over Wyoming Valley West last Friday night. The West Scranton Invaders entered with an 0-2 record, with a narrow loss against Riverside and a lopsided loss to Scranton Prep last Saturday. The Invaders were hoping that Scranton’s early season momentum was a fluke and would not impact this big rivalry game.

That momentum continued unabated today.

Scranton made few mistakes and did what they do best as they rode the hot play of QB Billy Maloney and the Knights retained the Bell for the 6th straight year with a 43-25 victory at Pen Fed Field in Scranton.

Scranton received the kickoff and used some initial sloppy play by the Invader defense to get into the red zone. Maloney had practiced the hard count with his linemen just prior to the start of the game, and it worked as it induced 2 offsides penalties on the drive. RB Memphis Shotto ran 3 times for 17 yards and Maloney also had 22 yards on the ground, but the Invaders defense stiffened at their own 14 as they forced 2 incomplete passes and stopped Maloney on a keeper on 4th down to take over on downs. They could not take advantage however, as 3 runs gained only 1 yard and an illegal procedure penalty forced them to punt out of their own end zone. On the punt attempt, the snap went right over the punter’s head and out of the end zone for a safety and it was Scranton who took the first lead 2-0 with 5:43 left in the 1st quarter.

After the safety, the Knights started out their 2nd drive with great field position at the Invader 31 yard line. Runs by Shotto, Maloney and RB Edie Salazar drove Scranton down to the Invader 11 yard line, but another big stop on a 4th down keeper from Maloney stalled the Knights again and the Invaders took over. West Scranton seemed to generate yards with runs by RB Shamier Lyons and WR Amir Robinson as the first quarter expired, and it looked like the Invaders had the momentum.

Unfortunately, disaster struck the Invaders as the second quarter began when the Knight’s Salazar recovered a fumble after a sack of QB Dan Van Dusky and the Knights took over on offense at the West Scranton 24 yard line. A combination of runs by Maloney and Shotto drove the Knights to the Invader 9 yard line, and then it was Maloney who called his own number and used the stretch play to scamper into the endzone for the touchdown. With 10:28 left in the 1st half, the Knights led it 9-0.

West Scranton would not be outdone though, as a great kick return by WR Taron Knight Guerrier put the Invaders at the Knight 34 yard line. A hard run by Lyons for 26 yards drove the Invaders to the Knight 8 yard line. After 3 more plays and no gained yards, the Invaders struck paydirt when Van Dusky hit WR Zaeyvion Miller for a beautiful diving catch in the end zone for the score. With 9:07 to go in the half, the Invaders only trailed by 2 at 9-7.

Scranton kept the same game plan rolling on their 3rd drive, as alternating runs by Shotto and Maloney worked the Knights into Invader territory at the 46. A Maloney scramble for a 1-yard loss was followed up by a nice toss to Shotto for a gain of 9 yards, but on 4th and 2 from the Invader 38 Maloney was again stopped short on the keeper and the Invaders took over on downs. The Knights defense played inspired ball however, and forced a 3-and-out. On the punt attempt from the Invaders at their own 34, another bad snap meant a hurried punt which took a bad bounce and gained only 1 yard, and Scranton took over at the Invader 35 yard line. Salazar ran for 19 yards and then RB Reece Whitman had a strong 7 yard run. Maloney then called his own number again and it was deja-vu as the stretch play from 9 yard out produced an almost identical touchdown run, his second of the game. With only 2:54 to go before the half, the Knights increased their lead at 16-7.

This did not intimidate the Invaders, who started their next drive at their own 44 yard line. RB Hunter Baumgardner had a strong run and broke several tackles as he worked the ball down to the Scranton 37 yard line for a 19-yard gain. Van Dusky then hit Miller for 14 yards down to the Knight 23, and then hit WR Ismael Turner for a 23-yard touchdown strike. After the 2-point conversion attempt failed, it was Scranton leading 16-13 with only 1:57 to go before the half. This was more than enough time for Scranton though, as they moved the ball with quick passes from Maloney to Shotto and Salazar. Maloney also hit WR Adrien Johns for a nice 22-yard gain, and the drive was capped when Maloney threw it to WR Jon Perez who broke away and scored from 22 yards out. With only 18 seconds to go, Scranton again increased their lead at 23-13.

The Invaders couldn’t get anything going on offense before halftime, but they struck quickly to start the 3rd quarter.  Another great kick return to their own 45 followed by another strong Baumgardner run for 12 yards drove the Invaders to the Scranton 43 yard line. Another illegal procedure penalty looked like it might slow the Invaders, but on the very next play from the Scranton 48, Van Dusky threw it to Guerrier who evaded several Knight defenders and ran it 52 yards for the score. With 10:59 left in the 3rd quarter, the Invaders narrowed the Scranton lead to 23-19.

The game then turned completely in favor of the Knights. Their next drive was a 9 play clinic on the ground that gained 32 yards, and then Maloney hit Johns for a 26-yard TD catch that made it 30-19 in favor of Scranton with 5:52 left in the 3rd quarter. West Scranton’s next drive looked promising as they drove to the Scranton 35 yard line, but an interception by Knight DB Rayhan Wibowo gave Scranton the ball back at their own 45 yard line. The Knights then drove down to the Invader 1 yard line as the 3rd quarter ended. On the very first play of the 4th quarter, Maloney dove into the end zone from 1 yard out for his 3rd rushing TD of the game. The extra point was blocked but Scranton had increased their lead to 36-19 with 11:57 to go in the game.

West Scranton took over on their own 38 yard line and drove down to the Scranton 37 yard line, but a big interception by Maloney gave the Knights the ball back at their own 11. Scranton again used their ground attack to push the Invaders back, and a big 48-yard run by Maloney gave the Knights great field position at the West Scranton 29 yard line. 2 plays later an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Invaders gave Scranton 1st and goal at the 9. The drive was capped when Whitman ran in it from 5 yards out to put Scranton up further at 43-19 with only 2:32 left in the game.

West Scranton scored once more when Baumgardner broke away on a 54-yard TD run and when the 2-point conversion failed it was 43-25 with only 1:11 to go. Scranton then kneeled it out to seal the win, and kept possession of The Bell again for the 6th straight year.

I spoke with Maloney after the win, and asked him about the importance of winning this rivalry game: “It means a whole lot to us to keep the Bell again for another year….they were competing hard but we wanted it more.”

Next up for Scranton is a big game next Friday night against the Scranton Prep Cavaliers. West Scranton will also face a big test on the road next Friday night against the Dallas Mountaineers.

Be sure to check out the full game photo gallery, courtesy of Sherryl Samuel:  https://pafootballnews.com/pfn/scranton-at-west-scranton-the-bell-game-photo-gallery/

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