PEN ARGYL - Prior to the start of the 2011 football season, all eyes pointed to Pen Argyl's Green Knights as the odds on favorite to be the Class 2A team to beat in District 11.
Not too many people expected Northern Lehigh to find its way back to the championship game considering all of the skilled players that graduated this past June.
Someone forgot to tell a group of Bulldog seniors who were set to don the Blue-and-White uniforms for one final season that they didn't belong in the district championship game for the third straight year.
Fourteen seniors returned and played their hearts out through a 9-1 regular season and a district semifinal win over North Schuylkill last week.
The Green Knights just came up with a couple of big plays more than the Bulldogs did on Saturday in picking up a 26-7 victory.
"They're a great team," Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout said afterwards. "They made stops.
"You have to get in there (talking about a goal line stand the Green Knights managed stopping the Bulldogs on the one on a fourth down play). If we get in there it's 19-14.
"I'm proud the way our kids fought throughout the game. I don't know if the final score is indicative of what type of game it was. If we get that score in the third quarter, it's an interesting football game."
Tout gave Pen Argyl credit for making that goal line stand when the Bulldogs looked like they were starting to fight back and get the momentum in the second half.
Printed on the top of the preparation sheets handed out to the Green Knights by their coaching staff prior to the game, it said "Great teams make great plays at important times."
And that's just what Pen Argyl did.
"I'm proud of our kids going in at halftime knowing we were down 19-7, out of the kickoff we got a stop and we drove down and just didn't get in there," said Tout.
Early in the first half, the Bulldogs had what would have been a fourth-and-inches call deep in Pen Argyl territory, but a personal foul penalty was called on Northern Lehigh by the back judge. One of the Bulldogs was pushed by one of the Green Knights and pushed back, but the referee chose only to throw the flag on the player who retaliated. This moved Northern Lehigh back to a fourth-and-14 and the drive was stopped.
"I don't usually talk about those types of things, but I'm frustrated at this point," said Tout. "I thought the appropriate measure would have been off-setting at that time. Pull kids in and say something to them. It wasn't anything, but that happens. That didn't lead to us losing, however."
Against a defense like Pen Argyl has (allowing just 69 points all season and only four scores against the first team defense) if you don't finish off drives, you aren't going to win.
"Their defense is exceptional," Tout added. "I don't see every team, but I'd have to say they're the best if not one of the top three defenses in the state."
The Green Knights are a veteran team. They had quite a year last year and lost to North Schuylkill. It was the school's first district title since 2001.
"This is a team (Pen Argyl) that has been on the verge of winning a title," Tout added. "There is no shame losing to this group because they're a great football team.
"I love this senior group. Slatington kids are tough blue-collar kids and they don't give up and that's what I'm proud of today. They just kept fighting.
"I don't know if a lot of people would have picked us to get to a district final again if you look at what we lost last year. The kids made believers out of me and the coaching staff, they're a tough group of kids."