Northwestern Lehigh head coach Tom Linette thought for a while that the team who would make the last mistake would wind up on the losing end of Friday night's battle with Palmerton.
In the end, the Tigers withstood a late mistake and ran in two touchdowns in the fourth quarter for a 35-22 win to spoil the Blue Bombers' homecoming.
"You've got to give it to our kids," said Linette afterwards. "We were down going into that fourth quarter and we took it down the field and scored.
"But we still kept trying to shoot ourself in the foot with penalties and things like that. We can't afford to do that next week (against Northern Lehigh)."
The workhorse all night for the Tigers was 5-10 junior running back Ty Cunningham who carried the ball 19 times for 186 yards and scored three touchdowns. His third TD of the night with 5:37 left in the game gave the Tigers the lead for good.
The Tigers took over on downs at the Palmerton 21 and quarterback Ben Snyder ran in an insurance score with 1:33 left on second down from 20 yards out to ice it.
Palmerton actually opened the scoring on its first offensive series of the game when Zach Freed hit Christian Marcin in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown with 6:20 left in the opening quarter to cap a eight-play, 66-yard drive. Freed ran in yard drive. Freed ran in for the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
The Bombers were driving again at the end of the first quarter, but the Tigers' defense stiffened and Northwestern took over on its own 29.
The Tigers marched the 71 yards in seven plays with Cunningham scoring his first TD of the night on a 19-yard run. Andrew Deutsch booted the PAT to pull his team within one at 8-7.
Northwestern didn't wait too long to take the lead as Payton Bachman stepped in front of a Freed pass on the Bombers' first play after the Tigers score and raced 35 yards into the end zone. Deutsch's kick made it 14-8 and there was still 9:23 to play in the first half.
Cunningham broke loose on a 49-yard run for a score with 2:34 remaining and the Tigers looked like they would take the momentum into the locker room at halftime leading 21-8.
The Bombers didn't want that to happen and answered back with a score of their own with 47 seconds left when Travis Labyack was on the receiving end of a Freed pass from 13 yards out. Freed then hit Albert Bickowski for the two-point conversion making the score 21-16 at intermission.
Palmerton kept the Tigers backed up in their own territory in the third quarter and took advantage of a Northwestern turnover to set up the score that gave it the lead again. Jarred Harry intercepted a Snyder pass and took it to the Tiger 25, fumbled it, but Aaron Cook was there to fall on it.
The Bombers moved down to the Northwestern two as Freed connected with Gio Rodriguez and Labyack on two straight completions. Travis Wolfe ran it in for the score and Palmerton had a 22-21 edge with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
With just over seven minutes left in the game, Robert Clymer intercepted a pass to give the Tigers the ball at their own 44.
It took just five plays for Cunningham to find the end zone again for the go-ahead score.
"I was proud of the fight," said Palmerton head coach McArdle. "We got punched in the mouth a couple of times, but we kept punching back. We just didn't get it done in the fourth quarter.
"They shut our run down and you have to give them credit for that. That put us into things we're not comfortable with like a passing game. But Gio (Rodriguez) made some big plays and (Zach) Freed made some big plays. We just didn't make enough in the fourth quarter."