CENTER VALLEY – It didn't take Northern Lehigh very long this season to go deep into its playbook.
The Bulldogs used a wide receiver pass on the first play of the game to take a quick lead on Southern Lehigh en route to a 21-7 win on opening night.
"That was huge," said Bulldog head coach Joe Tout. "I think that was real big momentum and our kids bought it. We were up the rest of the night."
Dylan Hofmann took the opening snap and slung the ball out to receiver David Getz, who passed downfield to Caleb Johnson. Johnson took it all the way for a 64-yard score on the game's first play.
The play was planned long before the opening kick off, but if the defense shows the wrong look then Hofmann audibles out of it.
"If it isn't there, we check (out of) it," Tout said. "Luckily it worked because we were close to calling it off. We were close to out-thinking ourselves before the game and I'm glad we didn't."
The Bulldogs went ahead 14-0 late in the first quarter when Kirk Bender took a handoff up the middle and raced 56 yards for a touchdown with seven seconds left in the first stanza.
From there the game started to get sloppy. Turnovers and penalties kept each team at bay in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs threw one interception and got called for two penalties in the second period. The Spartans turned it over three times (two interceptions, one fumble) and were called for one penalty in the second quarter.
Northern Lehigh added to its lead with a touchdown on its first drive of the second half, going 63 yards in seven plays, culminating with Trevor Yashur's 8-yard run for the score. That touchdown, and Kirk Bender's extra point, made it 21-0 with 6:47 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs seemed ready to play ball control and work the clock after going up by three scores. However, Southern Lehigh's offense started moving the ball and Northern Lehigh's offense began to turn it over.
The Spartans looked ready to answer that touchdown. They went 47 yards on 10 plays in on their ensuing drive, but stalled at the Northern Lehigh 16-yard line.
The Bulldogs were forced to punt away their next possession, but Southern Lehigh fumbled the punt and Yashur recovered.
Three plays later Northern Lehigh fumbled it right back to the Spartans.
This time the hosts took advantage. Senior quarterback Tyler Edmonds went 3-for-4 on a four-play drive that ended with a 45-yard scoring pass to Jared Gerhard that made the score 21-7 with 6:49 left in the game.
Then the teams exchanged turnovers. Northern Lehigh fumbled the ball away on its second play of the ensuing possession. The Spartans ran one play then fumbled it back to the Bulldogs on their next play. Northern Lehigh then fumbled it back to Southern Lehigh three plays later, with 3:53 on the game clock and the ball on the Northern Lehigh 39.
"We both made mistakes," said Southern Lehigh head coach John Toman. "Our mistakes hurt more than theirs."
Hofmann, a senior in his second year starting, said some of the mishaps were due to first-game nerves.
Northern Lehigh's players have been hearing talk about all the seniors that graduated from last year's district title team. With each win this season, this team will take another step out of the shadow of last year's squad.
"A lot of us feel like we are playing with a chip on our shoulder," Hofmann said. "We thought there was a lot of doubt. That's what we worked on all summer for, to get out of that shadow. I think we made our own identity tonight. We were confident in ourselves coming into the year even though nobody else was."