CATASAUQUA - There was no need for a last second "Hail Mary" to decide the winner in this year's Palmerton-Catasauqua matchup.
Rather than coming down to the last play of the game like it did a year ago, Catasauqua decided to take matters into its own hands as soon as it could against Palmerton, who had won the last three meetings between the two.
With the Bombers threatening, the Rough Riders stole the momentum right from the grasps of the Bombers to rattle off 28 unanswered points in a 38-12 victory.
With the victory, Catasauqua clinched its first District 11 Class 2A playoffs for the first time since 2002.
"All year, we have been a slow starting team," Catasauqua coach Tim Falzone said. "We tend to pick it up later on in the second half. We got a little burst there right before half. They had our backs against the wall up until then. That's how it seems every first half has been for us.
"We're happy with what we got going right now. From where we were expected to be at the beginning of the season, we have surprised some people. We may have even surprised ourselves a little' bit."
After the Roughies took a quick 10-0 midway through the second quarter, the Blue Bombers found life themselves by putting together one impressive drive to pull within four.
Palmerton senior Joe Weber finished off a 15 play, 80-yard drive with a one-yard plunge 44 seconds before the half. Prior to finishing the drive himself with a run, the senior quarterback had connected with three different receivers – Nick Carullo, Aaron Cook and Travis Labyack – for 53 yards. The attempted extra point sailed wide right.
However, it only took Catasauqua a mere 24 seconds to put itself back up by 11 points.
SaQuon Burton took in the kickoff from the Bombers and returned it for 40 yards. With that, it set up the Roughies with good field position with 37 seconds still on the clock.
Palmerton was able to force Brandon Lesko to throw two straight incompletions. However, soon enough, Lesko connected with Tommy Armellino on a small screen. After already racing 61 yards for a touchdown on a half-back option pass from Chris Litzenberger for a touchdown on his first reception, it was the end zone once again that Armellino saw with his second reception.
"That was a nice play," McArdle said. "They have been successful with that screen play all year. And they took it for a touchdown. That was the turning point right there.
"But, that has been the story of our season. We play really tough for awhile. Then, we just don't have it depth-wise and team's pull away from us."
TJ Miller connected for the extra point giving Catasauqua a 17-6 lead right before half.
After halftime, it got even uglier for the Blue Bombers as on its very first offensive series following intermission Lesko got his hands on a pitch from Weber and ran it in on a 24-yard fumble recovery which pushed the Roughies' lead to 24-6.
After the Bombers went three-and-out, the Roughies put together a nine-play, 69-yard drive to pull even further away. Lesko capped the drive by hitting Armellino in stride once again. On his third reception of the day, the senior's third catch was another charm for a 25-yard touchdown, in which the hosts went up 30-6 to end the third quarter.
"They got the momentum right before the half and they ran with it," McArdle said. "But I'm proud of the kids' effort. When we left the field house today, there was 16 helmets still back at the field house – whether kids missing from injuries or the flu. But, the kids who did play here tonight played their butts off. I can't fault the effort. There's nobody I can single out today. They gave it everything they had."
Nathan Falko finished off the Roughies' scoring with a two-yard touchdown scamper early in the fourth.
The Bombers refused to roll over, especially freshman Alex Vignone. After the Roughies' final score, Vignone took in the kick-off and raced down the far sidelines pretty much untouched for a 96-yard touchdown return.
That even impressed the likes of the Roughies' first year mentor.
"I think that team is going to be pretty good down the road," said Falzone, of a Palmerton program that only has four seniors on the roster. "They're young. They don't have too many seniors out there. They got a good future ahead of them. They fought us hard. That first half – it was tight. It was neck-and-neck for awhile."