PEN ARGYL – Pen Argyl's defense may bend from time to time, but it will almost assuredly never break.
So was the case midway through the third quarter of Saturday's District 11 AA Championship game with Northern Lehigh. Behind 19-7, the Bulldogs had just driven 51 yards to the Pen Argyl four-yard-line and were set up with a first-and-goal. The 'Dawgs needed just four yards to make it a one possession game. They only got three.
The Knights' defense stuffed Northern Lehigh running back Trevor Yashur on four straight runs and maintained their 12-point lead as time began to melt away. The Bulldogs wouldn't move inside the Pen Argyl 41-yard-line the rest of the way, as the Knights won 26-7 and claimed their first district title in ten years.
"It feels good right now," said Pen Argyl head coach Paul Reduzzi. "I wasn't apart of the 2001 team. I was fortunate enough to be here in '84 when we won that one, but I wasn't apart of the last one. To get back up on here on the hill and get this is very important to me and to the kids.
"It is easy to throw something out in August about being district champs. It's another thing to do it. We set a high goal and in life you don't get to reach your goals that often. I want these kids to appreciate it and understand that."
Last week Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout said that his team had to finish off drives if it wanted a chance to win. Other than one 53-yard scoring drive early in the game, the Bulldogs did not take advantage of their opportunities.
Down 13-7 with good field position, Northern Lehigh was stuffed on a third-and-one at the Pen Argyl 20 and was looking to go for it. However, the Bulldogs were hit with a questionable personal foul penalty after the play was over and were forced to punt.
Northern Lehigh also turned the ball over three times and was turned away on its only other trip deep into Pen Argyl territory.
"We had to get in there," said Tout on Pen Argyl's stand. "If we get in there it becomes 19-14 and it becomes and interesting football game. But you have to give Pen Argyl credit. They made a goal line stand when we started to fight back and gain some momentum.
"I am proud though. I am proud of our kids for going into halftime, knowing that we are down 19-7 and have to kick off. We got a stop and drove down, but that hurt when we didn't get in."
Pen Argyl scored on its first two possessions of the game to jump out to a 13-0 lead. Racciato went up the gut from 11 yards out for the Knights' first score. Then, following a Bulldog fumble at their own 20, Evans punched it in three plays later.
Northern Lehigh responded with its best drive of the afternoon, as it went 53 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Dylan Hofmann found Yashur out of the backfield for the score.
A possession later was when Northern Lehigh was hit with the personal foul following a failed third-and-short. The penalty turned out to be a huge one. Four plays after receiving the punt, Pen Argyl quarterback Conor Gum hit Racciato on a wheel route down the far sideline for a 68-yard touchdown. The score put the Knights up 19-7 and they never looked back.
Pen Argyl (12-0) will face off against Wilkes Barre GAR in the first round of the PIAA playoffs on Friday night at Wyoming Valley West Stadium.