OLD FORGE – Carbondale's defense and tough conditions in the rain and mud combined to slow the Old Forge running game Friday night.
Brenden Wahl found an unlikely solution for the Blue Devils, turning in his biggest passing effort of the season in slippery conditions.
Wahl threw for four touchdowns – three to Anthony Piccolini – and ran for another score as Old Forge turned back visiting Carbondale, 35-8, in a Lackawanna Football Conference Division 3 game.
The Blue Devils celebrated Homecoming by clinching a District 2 Class A playoff berth and taking over sole possession of the division lead.
Wahl was at his best in a game-changing flurry after Carbondale opened the second half by scoring in a minute and getting the ball back in another minute to try to continue cutting into a 16-8 deficit.
Once Old Forge regained possession, Wahl went 6-for-6 for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the next 10 minutes while also running for a score to put the Blue Devils up 35-8 with 10:06 left.
We're not really used to this, Wahl said of the difficult conditions. At halftime, we made some adjustments for some of what they were doing on defense and worked from there.
Wahl finished 12-for-17 for 268 yards.
I was able to get used to it because it was pouring in pregame, Wahl said.
It could have been worse. The rain slowed down during the game, which finished minutes before lightning arrived in the area.
We battled the surface and a tough opponent, Old Forge coach Mike Schuback said. I'm really happy with the way it all turned out.
The unbeaten Blue Devils lost a fumble on the first play and another later in the game, but were able to gradually pull away from the Chargers, who entered the night in third place in the division.
Old Forge held Carbondale to minus-6 yards total offense in the first half.
Eleven guys to the football at all times, that's what we try to do, linebacker Shane Schuback, one of the defensive leaders, said.
The Blue Devils drove 55 yards on their third possession to take a 3-0 lead on a Matt Mancuso 27-yard field goal with 2:27 left in the first quarter. Wahl and Piccolini, who connected five times for 158 yards, combined on a 28-yard pass to get the ball inside the 5.
Old Forge forced a punting situation and Carbondale was unable to get the kick away.
It took the Blue Devils one play for Wahl to hit Piccolini on a slant pass for a 7-yard touchdown and 9-0 lead with 49 seconds left in the quarter.
Wahl threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Brian Tomasetti one play after a 21-yard completion to Jake Manetti. The score, with 1:10 left in the second quarter, gave Old Forge a 16-0 halftime lead.
Carbondale used two trick plays – a flea flicker from Joey Gigliotti to Jason Martin for a 42-yard touchdown and a halfback-option pass from Brandon Sales to Mike Scotch on the two-point conversion – to cut the deficit in half 59 seconds into the third quarter.
After one drive that went nowhere fast, Wahl had the Blue Devils moving again.
Piccolini took a quick pass to the right side, slipped two tackles and went 46 yards for a touchdown and 23-8 lead midway through the third.
Three straight completions for 59 yards put the ball at the 1 and Wahl took it in from there, making it 29-8 with 3:18 still remaining in the quarter.
Wahl passed 22 yards to Piccolini on the fourth play of the fourth quarter and hit him again on the next play for a 55-yard touchdown that closed the scoring.
Wahl went over the 1,000-yard mark passing in the game, joining Tomasetti, who surpassed 1,000 in rushing earlier in the season.
The Blue Devils are home again Friday against winless Holy Cross.
Old Forge finished with leads of 12-8 in first downs, 89-56 in rushing yards, 268-87 in passing yards and 357-143 in total offense.
Tomasetti carried 22 times for a game-high 81 yards, but was limited to just one carry of more than eight yards.
Remington Hedden led Carbondale with 33 yards on 11 carries. The Chargers managed just 1.6 yards per carry.
Carbondale's Gigliotti was 7-for-22 passing.
Manetti (23 yards) and Schuback (20) each caught two passes.