Coaches don't usually like to label any early-season game as "must-win." But that's exactly what Palmerton's Paul McArdle did prior to contests with Salisbury and Saucon Valley.
Following a 1-9 campaign a year ago, the Bombers opened this season with back-to-back losses.
McArdle felt that the next two games were crucial if Palmerton was going to turn its season around.
"You hate to tell your kids that they are playing a must-win game when you still have six or seven games to play after that," said McArdle. "But I felt that we needed to play the Salisbury and Saucon Valley games with a real sense of urgency. If we were going to reach the goals we had set in the pre-season, we needed to have both of those wins."
The Bombers responded to McArdle's demands.
Palmerton beat Salisbury, 36-0, and Saucon Valley, 36-34.
"Our first win against Salisbury was huge," said McArdle. "I felt like we had the potential to be a pretty good team, but confidence is so important and after winning just one game last year and starting this season with two losses, we needed something good to happen for us. We needed something positive that our kids could build on. That's what the Salisbury win gave us."
The Bombers followed that initial victory by beating Saucon Valey and Palisades, 38-0, to improve to 3-2 on the season.
Even more impressive than the fact that Palmerton has won three straight games is the fact that it has accomplished it with standout players Levi Serfass and Christian Marcin nursing injuries.
"Levi and Christian are both two-year captains for us and were players we were really counting on," said McArdle. "Levi was a second team all-league linebacker last year and Christian had over 1,000 all-purpose yards. Not only did they both start on offense and defense, but they were key special teams players as well.
"But the rest of our kids have really stepped up and have done a great job of filling voids. I'm really proud of how we have responded to the adversity. I always tell the kids that when someone goes down with an injury, it creates an opportunity for someone else. Kids like Alex Vignone, Travis Wolfe, Joevonnie Rodriguez and Aaron Cook had done a great job of stepping up their game for us since some of the injuries hit."
The Bombers have responded to McArdle's "must-win" challenges with three straight victories. With several big games on the horizon, their challenge now is to keep building on the momentum they have established.
Week five of OVERTIME will take a look back at a couple of unbelievable scoring displays in games involving area teams, a player who continues to pile up unmatched touchdown performances, a runner whose workload put him in unchartered territory, and an unsung hero who has been a key during Palmerton's three-game winning streak.
But first of all we will look at a rivalry game where the two teams are in an uncommon situation this season.
Marian and Panther Valley will meet Friday night in Lansford for the 44th time in the history of the rivalry. For just the fourth time in 34 seasons since the series resumed in 1976 (the Colts and Panthers didn't play between 1970-1976), both teams will bring losing records into the game.
The Colts enter with a 1-4 record and the Panthers will come in 0-5. The only other times since 1976 when both teams have had losing records entering the game were 1995, 2001, 2005.
FIREWORKS …. Northern Lehigh and Lehighton had notable offensive numbers in their games last week.
The Bulldogs beat Salisbury, 67-28. The last time a Bulldog team scored more points was Oct. 31, 2003 when they defeated Palmerton, 68-8.
While the combined 95 points the Bulldogs and Falcons scored would be noteworthy almost any other week, it falls short of the shootout that Lehighton and PM East played.
The Cardinals 62-41 win is believed to have shattered the mark for most points in a game involving Lehighton. The 103 points topped the mark of 85 points set on Sept. 15, 2000 when the Indians beat Whitehall, 53-32.
Since 1979, it was only the third time Lehighton has allowed more than 50 points in a game. Jim Thorpe scored 62 against the Indians on Nov. 5, 2004 and Pottsville put up 56 points in a playoff game on Nov. 10, 2006.
Also, the 41 points by Lehighton is the most it has scored in a loss since at least 1979. The previous mark came in a 41-39 loss to Marian in 2007.
HIGH FIVE …. Cody Remaley just keeps putting up amazing numbers for Northern Lehigh.
In the Bulldogs rout of Salisbury, Remaley scored five touchdowns to become just the eighth area player since 1996 to accomplish that feat.
He joins Joe Semanoff of Lehighton, Ryan Hluschak of Northern Lehigh, Chas Field of Panther Valley, Justin Barrasso of Marian, Craig Zurn of Jim Thorpe, Chris Siracuse of Palmerton and Chris Perhonitch of Marian as others who have scored five TDs in a game.
WORKHORSE …. Jim Thorpe's Shane Edwards was a busy man Friday night. In the Olympians 24-6 victory over Shenandoah, Edwards ran the ball 37 times for 225 yards.
The 37 carries were the most for a player during the Mark Rosenberger era at Jim Thorpe (131 games since 1998). On just four other occasions during Rosenberger's tenure has a back carried the ball 30 or more times in a game.
Others who did it were:
* Phil Redline (36 on Dec. 27, 2007)
* Phil Redline (35 on Oct. 13, 2006)
* Craig Zurn (32 on Nov. 3 2006)
* Ngoyi Mukusa (30 on Oct. 10 1998).
The 225 rushing yards by Edwards were also the most by an Olympian since Gabe Robinson ran for 260 yards against Columbia Montour Vo-Tech on Sept. 24, 1999.
30-SOMETHING … Palmerton has scored 36, 36 and 38 points in its last three games.
The last time a Bomber team racked up 35 or more points in three consecutive games was during the 2006 season when they beat Bangor (49-0), Notre Dame (40-7) and Southern Lehigh (35-0) in consecutive weeks.
During Palmerton's latest victory, Travis Wolfe had a rushing and receiving touchdown. He was the first Bomber to do that in a game since Justin Petersen on Sept. 4, 2007 in a 39-0 win over Notre Dame.