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West Middlesex hangs on for win



Published: Sat, October 21, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Big Reds are 8-0 overall and 6-0 in District 10, Class A.

By JOHN BASSETTI

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

HERMITAGE -- Kolten Hoffman ran for two touchdowns and threw for another to Josh Brown, who also had a punt return for a touchdown, as unbeaten West Middlesex held off Kennedy Catholic, 28-21, Saturday afternoon.

"It's nice being 8-0," said Big Reds coach Brian Hoffman. "I don't think it's ever been accomplished in this school [in football]. But we can't be satisfied."

West Middlesex (8-0, 6-0) has Lakeview and Linesville standing in its way of an unbeaten regular season and District 10, Region 1-A championship.

"This is the second game of the year we were really tested, not only physically, but mentally," Hoffman said, including Sharpsville as the other game, "and I like the way our kids responded. There were times when we could have folded. We were getting tired out there on the field in the third quarter. We could have given up, but we didn't. That's a testament to the kids' character."

Favored returned

Kennedy had the upper hand the last few years, beating the Big Reds twice in regular-season games and once in playoffs.

West Middlesex took the opening kickoff and marched 74 yards on 12 plays before Hoffman hit Josh Brown from 6-yards out.

Hoffman, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior, ran an option play 35 yards for his team's next score. Brown's second of four extra point kicks gave Big Reds a 14-0 lead.

Ross Gargano, who finished with a game-high 149 yards on 21 carries, ran 49 yards to put Kennedy (4-4, 4-2) on the board.

After Chachi Ruffo's punt pinned Kennedy at its 5-yard line, Dan D'Onofrio punted to its own 43 and Middlesex took possession.

Hoffman followed with a 27-yard TD run at 4:41 of the second quarter and the Big Reds led, 21-6.

Kennedy reached Middlesex's 1-yard line, but Gargano's attempted keeper on the final play of the first half failed.

Gargano returned the second-half kickoff 87 yards to pull the Golden Eagles at its closest at 21-14.

Although Brown's 37-yard punt return at 1:07 of the third quarter was a back breaker, Middlesex wasn't out of the woods because Lee Plotts scored from 7 yards out to pull Kennedy within 28-21.

Drive curtailed

After the Golden Eagles got the ball at their 20-yard line with two minutes remaining, Hoffman's interception prematurely ended any final drive.

"That kickoff return [by Gargano] could have turned things in the opposite direction," Brian Hoffman said. "That was a return we definitely didn't need."

"We just didn't tackle very well in the first half. Special teams-wise, we didn't tackle at all," said Kennedy coach Mike Donato.

"Missed opportunities is the story of our season. In every game we lost, we had missed opportunities. You just go back and hope to get better. I think we're getting better, defensively, and that's a plus."

Kolten Hoffman finished with 109 yards on 18 carries and he completed 4-of-8 passes for 61 yards. As quarterback, Gargano completed 3-of-7 for 53 yards.

bassetti@vindy.com




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