It was no surprise that with less than two minutes until halftime Northern Lehigh trailed powerful Catasauqua.

But what was surprising, even among Bulldog fans, was the score.

The Rough Riders, undefeated and ranked in the state, took a 7-0 lead on their first possession of Friday's night Colonial League contest. But after that, Joe Tout's scrappy Nolehi squad nearly held their opponent scoreless the rest of the half.

While Catty managed a touchdown right before the break and eventually pulled away in the second half for a 40-0 rout, the fact that the Bulldogs played toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in Class AA wasn't lost on both team's head coaches.

"I thought Northern Lehigh did a great job," said Tom Falzone, the Roughies' mentor. "I thought they played physical. They smashed us up front and make it very difficult for us to do some of the things we wanted to do. Hats off to Coach Tout and his group of kids over there. They did a heckuva job.

"We were up for the game. I just thought they came out and played very solid. I definitely don't feel like we took them for granted. We just weren't on. I don't know how many dropped balls we had. They played tough and I have to give a lot of credit to them. They're young and they have a good future. They may be having a down year but it will pay off in the end for them."

Zack Bradley, Catty's talented quarterback, hit Paryss Marshall with a 38-yard strike on the Roughies' first play from scrimmage and it led to a one-yard scoring run by Devin Flores.

Bradley, however, had five straight incompletions after that. Three straight drives resulted in no points, with one of them being an interception by Nolehi's Stephen Ingles.

"I liked our effort defensively, especially in the first half," said Tout, whose team dropped to 1-8. "We knew we were playing a great football team tonight and it was the last time our seniors were playing at this field. We think this is a special place and a hard place to play for opponents. I thought our scheme was good and I thought our kids did a nice job with it.

"We moved the ball a little bit in the first half. The effort was there and I was happy with that. If we get that to carry over to next week we're going to be all right."

Despite Catasauqua's difficulties early, it managed to push across a score right before intermission to double its advantage. The Roughies drove 75 plays in nine plays, capped by a seven-yard touchdown toss from Bradley to Marshall with .2 seconds left.

"It was nice to get something in there after a sloppy half," said Falzone. "We put one in, but even the one we scored there wasn't pretty. It was just a nice play by Paryss.

"I think we spread it around pretty good tonight. A lot of guys were involved in the scoring. That's what we have to do."

Bradley finished with 261 yards passing and four touchdowns, all to different receivers, while Marshall had eight catches for 147 of those yards. Catasauqua scored on all four of its posessions in the second half to claim the win and clinch at least a tie for the league title.

"Their quarterback, he might be the best in the Lehigh Valley," said Tout. "I thought we were able to get some pressure on them which is what you have to do. You can't sit back against them. He's a special player.

"It's been a roller-coaster season. We had a lot of turnovers last week and didn't play with a lot of emotion. This week we did. It's cool as a coach, when you're having a 1-8 season, to come in at halftime and see your kids excited because you're in a football game against a good football team."

Freshman Ryan Farber ran for 66 yards to lead the Bulldogs offensively.