Many times in football, a game can come down to a crucial turnover, and it can spell the difference between a win and a loss.
Such was the case in Friday night's Colonial League thriller in Hellertown, as Saucon Valley took advantage of a hard hit, causing a Nolehi fumble that was scooped up and returned for a touchdown late in the third quarter to make the score 20-7 at that point. Eventually, the Panthers went on to pull off the 26-21 win over the Bulldogs to drop the latter into some unfamiliar territory.
It doesn't seem normal for a Bulldog football team to be at 0-3 after three weeks of action, but that's where they stand after the tough loss.
"To me, the turnover for the touchdown was essentially the difference tonight," Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout said. "I told our kids, though, that I'm proud of them because the effort was there tonight. We also told them that one play, no matter if it's early or late in the game, could mean the ball game. You have to treat every play the same."
Every play seemed to count for both teams with great plays being made on both sides of the field. Saucon Valley maneuvered its way down field on their its possession, but a missed field goal resulted in a scoreless first quarter.
Starting the second session, the Panthers struck first, as they took the ball 70 yards in four plays for the game's initial score. It was a 54-yard pass from Saucon senior QB Keith Mosher to fellow classmate Nick Savant, who bobbled the ball initially, before corralling it in, and taking off down the left sideline for a score.
Northern Lehigh answered back when it recovered a fumble on the Saucon 39, and three plays later, junior tailback Nate Farber rumbled in from the 20 for the tying score with 3:13 left before halftime.
However, the hosts wouldn't be denied, as they turned right around and went 73 yards on a nine-play drive to record a TD with 19 ticks left in the half. Andrei Gausling pounded his way in from the one to give his team the lead for good, 14-7, at the break.
"The way our kids work, they come out together and they fight hard," Saucon Valley head coach Matt Evancho said. "We have been playing like a family and I'm happy for our kids the way they're playing."
The Panthers ballooned their lead late in the third on the afore-mentioned turnover, when sophomore Mike Kane was in the right spot at the right time, from his defensive end position, to take the recovered fumble in from the seven for a 20-7 lead with :49 left in the third.
Instead of quitting, the 'Dawgs came right back and put together an impressive 62-yard, nine-play drive that cut the lead to 20-14 with nine minutes remaining, after Farber ran in from the five.
But Saucon had the answer as it bounced back with a 5:21 drive that happened over ten plays and saw Savant go in from the nine for another score.
The Bulldogs had little time and needed to act quickly, and did so by going to the air to move the ball downfield and score again, as Chance DeLong completed four passes during the drive, including a TD toss to Stephen Ingles with one and a half minutes left, that rounded out the scoring.
"The win is huge," Evancho admitted. "Beating a team like Northern Lehigh, a program we are trying to emulate, makes us very happy. It wasn't pretty, but we'll take a win."
Tout said his team is continuing to improve
"Our guys never quit at the end. Down by two scores, I loved our kids' moxie to keep plugging and come right back. We got better than last week and that's the good thing."