They waited a year for a chance to get their hands on district gold medals and the trophy and there was no way they were going to let it slip away this time.
Joe Tout and his Northern Lehigh Bulldogs went after North Schuylkill right on the opening drive and kept the lead the entire night as they handed the Spartans a 25-23 setback to win the District 11 Class 2A championship on Saturday night at Bulldog Stadium.
With the win, the Bulldogs (12-0) will get to host Wilkes-Barre GAR (11-1), the District 2 champion, on Friday night at 7 o'clock at J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown to open the PIAA Inter-district playoffs.
"High school games are filled with highs and lows," Tout said comparing last year's loss to this year's win. "Our kids wanted this game so bad and earlier this week I said North Schuylkill was as good as they were hyped up to be. But we feel we have a pretty darn good football team here and our kids just never gave up. They never quit, they fought through it and it was a physical game.
"I think the first half set the tempo for our guys and showed we're a pretty good football team."
It was the Bulldogs first district title since 2003, the year they reached the state final, and Tout's first district crown as head coach.
The game featured with plenty of highlights as far as the Bulldogs were concerned both on offense and defense.
Cody Remaley scored four touchdowns to set a school record for most TDs in a season with 34 and he isn't finished yet. The one for the highlight film was a 80-yard kickoff return for six in the second quarter.
Another was a key run and outstanding pass reception by Jake Kern, to set up scores and he was the favorite target for quarterback Dylan Hofmann, who added another dimension to the Nolehi offense with some perfect strikes.
Defense played its part when it stopped a North Schuylkill drive on downs at the Bulldog three with 49 seconds left in the first half to keep it a two-possession game (18-7) at halftime. Then there was a big interception with 2:40 left in the game by the Bulldogs' David Getz that just about put the game away.
"We switched up our defense a little bit," said Matt Gill, who played a big part in shutting down North Schuylkill's big running back Ed Pavalko. "We ran a seven-man front to basically stop the inside trap and we did a nice job practicing that all week."
When they needed a big play, it seemed like it always came down to Kern.
The Bulldog senior picked up a big first down with an 11-yard run setting up Remaley's first touchdown on a 20-yard run. Channing Shiffert's PAT attempt was partially blocked and Northern Lehigh had a 6-0 lead with 7:08 left in the first quarter.
The Spartans managed to run just five plays in the opening quarter before punting to the Bulldogs, who started their second scoring drive on their own 23.
It turned out to be a 12-play drive that carried over into the second quarter with a Hofmann-to-Kern 28-yard hookup on a third down play that kept it going. Remaley scored from the one and it was 12-0.
North Schuylkill finally put a drive together the second time it was on offense. It covered 73 yards on 12 plays with Kody Flail breaking loose on a 23-yard run. Charlie Hutnick's PAT made it 12-7 and it looked like the Spartans had some momentum.
Remaley thought otherwise, however, as he faked a reverse on the ensuing kickoff and raced 80 yards for his third touchdown of the night. The two-point conversion failed, but the Bulldogs still led 18-7 at the half.
It became a defensive battle in the second half and it wasn't until Ethan Motsney scored on a four-yard run with 9:23 left in the game and Scott Houser ran in for the two-point conversion to cut the Bulldog lead to 18-15 that any points were scored.
The Bulldogs had an answer, however, and it was Kern for a 10-yard gain on third down and Kern again on a 28-yard completion from Hofmann down to the North Schuylkill one that was the backbreaker.
"I'm just glad I had the opportunity to make those plays," said Kern. "I'm happy that he (Hofmann) just gave me a chance to adjust to the ball instead of just throwing it away or overthrowing it."
Two plays later, Remaley scored again on a three-yard carry and Shiffert's kick made it 25-15 with 3:58 left.
"The kid made plays," Tout said talking about Kern. "Dylan Hofmann put the ball right where it needed to be. They had great coverage, but Jake is a playmaker and did what he needed to do."
The Spartans managed to score with 1.5 seconds on the clock on a 16-yard pass from Ryan Henning to Flail and the latter also ran in the two-point conversion, but an onside kick attempt was recovered by Matt Gill and the Bulldogs had their gold.