Oct. 28—SCRANTON — The Knights needed a stop to keep the momentum from the first half.
They held a 14-point lead, but Wallenpaupack drove into Scranton territory to start the third quarter. Facing a 4th-and-6, Buckhorns quarterback Aydin Greene threw a ball intended for Jake Holbert. Instead, Elijah Ortiz jumped in front of the receiver and intercepted the pass.
The play, one of Scranton's five forced turnovers, sparked a touchdown drive that put the game away as the No. 10 Knights rolled to a 35-14 victory over Wallenpaupack on Friday night in a Lackawanna Football Conference Division I matchup at Scranton Veterans Memorial Stadium.
"I watched a lot of film on (Holbert)," Ortiz said. "He's a great player. I knew stops were coming. It's 4th-and-6 and we got great pressure and he just threw it up there and I was there to make the play."
Holding a 21-7 lead, Scranton faced a third-and-14 after the Ortiz interception. Billy Maloney underthrew Oliver Almonte down the left side. However, Almonte adjusted, going over the top of the Wallenpaupack defender to grab the football for a spectacular catch, running down the sideline for a 42-yard gain and a first down.
"I saw it was short. I thought he was going to get it, but I went up and was like, I've got to get this one and I just took it from him," Almonte said. "I literally just took it from him and tried to get a touchdown, but the other guy got me. It felt great."
Ortiz ran 12 yards on the next play before Maloney hit Almonte on a swing pass that Almonte took in for a 20-yard touchdown to give Scranton (5-5 overall, 2-4 Division I) a 28-7 lead.
"When the coach called the one play, I knew I had a score," Almonte said. "It was open lane to the touchdown, so it felt great."
On the ensuing drive, Memphis Shotto picked off a pass and took it 62 yards for a touchdown with 57.3 seconds left in the third quarter to put the game away.
Ortiz also kick-started the Knights offense with a 33-yard touchdown catch to give Scranton a 7-0 lead with 4:37 left in the first quarter.
"I saw the safety come from the left and the linebacker was playing me pretty close and I've got speed and I just used it on him and I got to the outside and scored," Ortiz said.
Wallenpaupack (2-8, 0-6) answered with a 1-yard touchdown run by Dylan Podrazil on a drive the Buckhorns sparked when they recovered a muffed punt in Scranton territory.
On the ensuing possession, Greene couldn't corral the snap and Conor Dempsey jumped on the loose ball as the Knights took over on the Wallenpaupack 41. Three plays later, Maloney ran off the right side for an 11-yard score to give Scranton a 14-7 lead.
One minute later, Scranton forced another turnover when Reece Spindler tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage. Maloney picked off the pass, and ran up the right side before cutting across the field for a 65-yard interception return for a score. The first of two Knights pick-sixes gave Scranton a 21-7 lead with 6:05 left in the half.
"Phenomenal," Ortiz said of Scranton's defensive performance. "We've got some things we've got to work on, but other than that the secondary was pretty good tonight."
After a fourth-down play with 9:01 left in the game, sidelines cleared and a brawl broke out after a Wallenpaupack player swung a Scranton helmet at a Knights player. The officials separated the sides and, after a conference at midfield with Scranton coach Steve Shumbres and Wallenpaupack coach Mark Watson, the referees ejected Scranton's Reece Spindler and Jonathan Perez and Wallenpaupack's Ryan Kowalik. Those players will miss the next two games.
Maloney accounted for four of Scranton's five touchdowns. The Knights quarterback was 5 of 8 for 109 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception. He added 40 yards and one touchdown on nine carries and the pick-six.
Podrazil had 120 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 31 carries for Wallenpaupack.
Scranton will be the No. 3 seed in the District 2 Class 5A playoffs, where it will face the winner of Saturday's game between Delaware Valley and Abington Heights in the semifinals.
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