BETHLEHEM Not many people would have forecasted a Bethlehem Catholic-Lehighton matchup in the opening round of the District 11 3A playoffs last week, but once that became definitive, few would have picked the Indians to pull off the upset.
That's how things worked out for the Golden Hawks, who had no trouble against Lehighton Saturday night at Frank Banko Field amidst a 34-6 victory.
Becahi (7-4) scored three plays into the game and never looked back, as the second-seeded Hawks now move on to play top-seeded Southern Lehigh (10-1) in this Saturday's district championship.
Michael McDaniel scored the first of his four touchdowns on the night from one-yard out with 11:03 in the first quarter, following a 55-yard run by quarterback Julian Spigner to the Lehighton one-yard line.
McDaniel finished the night with 50 yards rushing and three scores from the ground and added a TD reception as well.
McDaniel didn't figure to be the focal point on the night, as Becahi had three runners over 50 yards to build a rushing total of 218 yards, but McDaniel has had a nose for the end zone this season, as he now has 25 touchdowns on the year.
One stat that McDaniel cares more about than touchdowns is having his team write their way into the record books as district champions this season.
"We haven't been here in awhile, so we'll see what happens next week," said McDaniel about playing for a district title. "We just wanted to take things one game at a time and focus on Lehighton. We have a lot of guys that can make plays on our team and I was just fortunate to get the ball in the right spots."
Spigner connected with McDaniel for a seven-yard score with 5:23 left in the second quarter to give the Hawks a 14-0 lead.
That's when Lehighton answered with an eight-play, 80 yard drive, capped off by a six-yard rushing score from Wyatt Clements with 1:38 remaining in the half to draw within 14-6 following a blocked extra point.
Quarterback Tyler Cann ripped off runs of 28 and 26 yards during the drive to help move the chains, as the Indians stuck to their bread and butter rushing attack to build momentum with the score.
That's when Becahi reasserted themselves just before the half on their next possession. Starting from their own 41, the Hawks answered in four plays, largely coming from a 33-yard completion from Spigner to wide receiver Chris Figler to the Indians' 21. Marco Blasco busted up the middle for a 19-yard burst on the ensuing play and McDaniel scored from two-yards out for his third TD of the half to give the Hawks a 21-6 advantage 53 seconds after Lehighton scored.
"I don't necessarily think that was a dagger for us right before halftime," said Lehighton head coach Tom McCarroll about Becahi answering so quickly. "We knew we were getting the ball after the half and thought that we could answer, but things didn't work out that way for us."
The Hawks went on to score two more touchdowns in the third quarter to essentially seal the contest, as the Indians did not have the horses to come back. Cann finished the night 5-of-13 for 18 yards. He led the team in rushing with 68 yards, while Clements added 65.
The Indians suffered a big loss in the first half when two-way starter and punter Tyler Crum was injured and taken off the field on a stretcher.
Hawks' head coach Joe Henrich knows the gratifying position his team is in following a 1-9 season a year ago and was glad to have his first district playoff victory under wraps.
"It's what you work for and it's a great feeling," said Henrich. "We just wanted to go out and execute our game. We knew that was the most important thing for us. We're just thankful and blessed to be in this position and look forward to next week's game."
McCarroll had similar feelings for his team, as the Indians ended their season at 6-5.
"I can't say enough about our kids on the whole season because not too many people expected us to be in this position," McCarroll said. "It's a building block for us. We're a young team and we'll use this as momentum going into the off-season."