Northern Lehigh's defense was on the field for the final six minutes and 31 seconds of the game as Catty's offense held the ball for 19 plays to end Saturday's District 11 Class AA championship game.
But after the Roughies decided to go for the win instead of keeping a game-tying field goal on the board, Bulldogs held them out of the end zone to secure a 20-17 win and a berth in Saturday's title game against top-seeded North Schuylkill.
"You have to give our kids credit defensively," said Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout. "They just played on instinct. Dylan Hoffman made a good play, but our whole defense, to not let them in was a great goal-line stand."
After taking over at their own 10-yard line with 6:31 left in the game, the Roughies (8-4) drove to the Bulldog 19 in 12 plays. Facing a fourth and eight they sent in Tyler Miller for a 36-yard field goal attempt, which he made to tie the game at 20.
However, a roughing the kicker penalty forced Catty head coach Tom Falzone to make a tough decision. He accepted the penalty, taking the points off the board and giving his team first and goal at the 9.
"When you're down there that close why not try to go for the win," he said.
A second-down pass interference penalty gave the Roughies first and goal at the 6, they didn't go for a tying field goal because Miller got hurt on his last kick.
Quarterback Brandon Lesko ran for a yard on first down then threw to the end zone on second down and was nearly picked off by Hoffman.
Lesko ran again on third down and got within inches of the end zone, but a fourth-down false start moved the ball back to the six. With one last shot at the win Lesko threw a fade route to Tommy Armellino on fourth down. Hoffman knocked the ball down with no time left on the clock to seal the win.
"It was the best game we ever played in," said Northern Lehigh defensive back Jake Kern. "Our line just dominated up front. They out-physicalled Catty."
The Bulldogs broke out a new weapon Saturday their version of the Wildcat offense. They used it at least a dozen times Saturday for more than 100 yards of the 295 yards they rolled up on the ground.
"I don't know if we expected it to work that well," Tout said. "We thought we might get a series out of it. We try to get as many blockers in there for Cody as possible. It was a way to add a little wrinkle in our offense."
In the "Bulldog," Northern Lehigh's name for the Wildcat scheme, the quarterback and wide receiver come out in favor of two more blockers. Running back Cody Remaley lines up in a shotgun with Matt Gill and Kirk Bender to his side and Hunter Grol lined up behind the guard, giving Remaley 10 blockers.
Remaley piled up 229 rushing yards in the game with fewer than half his 40 carries coming in the "Bulldog."
When Tout first brought up using a new formation Remaley's reaction was "Are you serious." But when he saw it he liked it. After Saturday he likes it even more.
"I love it now," he said. "It's something to switch up. I know Catty probably wasn't expecting that."
Whether in their base offense of the Wildcat, Northern Lehigh's ground game was working most of the night.
Catty took a 3-0 lead on the game's opening possession, the Bulldogs answered with a 17-play touchdown drive that included three third-down conversions and a 6-yard fourth down touchdown run by Matt Gill.
Northern Lehigh got up 13-3 on its third possession of the game, driving 76 yards in 13 plays capped by Remaley's 12-yard touchdown run with 3:04 left in the second quarter.
This time the Roughies answered. Lesko completed three straight passes including a 2-yard touchdownto John Lynn that made it 13-10 just before halftime.
The Bulldogs stretched the lead to 20-10 with another long, time consuming drive to start the third quarter. Eleven plays capped by Remaley's 4-yard touchdown run with 6:40 left.
The Roghies responded with a quick touchdown drive, five plays ending with a 22-yard touchdown throw to Armellino that made it 20-17 with 4:06 left in the third.
The Bulldogs took over at their own 20 and mounted their most time-consuming drive of the game, going 17 plays to the Catty 10-yard line before turning the ball over on downs just inches short of a first down. The drive included two fourth-down conversions, but they couldn't get a third one and had to give the ball back to Catty's, which had just one other second-half possession.
The Roughies completed their first three passes on that final drive, including a wide receiver pass from Litzenberger to Lesko. But they went 0-for-4 once they got inside the 25, allowing Northern Lehigh to hang on for the win and avenge a 21-7 loss suffered to the Roughies on October 30.