PEN ARGYL – With a one-score lead at halftime, Pen Argly was in familiar territory.
A year earlier the Green Knights took a one-touchdown lead over Northern Lehigh into halftime but ended up losing by 15 points after the Bulldogs scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
This year was different. This time the Knights barely let Northern Lehigh across midfield after halftime to hold onto a 14-8 lead and remain undefeated.
Last year's loss, Pen Argyl's only regular-season setback, motivated this year's team, which has plenty of players back from last year.
"That was something we talked about even in the offseason," said Knights running back Dylan Evans. "We didn't forget about that loss. When we came down at halftime we had about five or six kids saying 'This is where we were last year and we're not going to let it slip away again.'"
Both teams grinded out long drives in the first half Saturday in Pen Argyl.
The Knights (6-0) scored on their first two possessions of the game.
After a Northern Lehigh interception on the game's opening drive, the Knights went 62 yards in 15 plays, capped by Evans 1-yard run with 11:18 left in the second quarter.
Northern Lehigh answered, marching 70 yards on 10 plays. Trevor Yashur's 19-yard scoring run tied the game at 6-6. His extra-point run, shortened by a Pen Argyl penalty, gave his team an 8-6 lead with 7:06 left in the first half.
The Knights responded with a seven-play touchdown drive that was kept alive by Kyle Muller's 59-yard reception on third and 10 from the Pen Argyl 31. Two plays later quarterback Conor Gum ran in from eight yards out and added a two-point conversion to give his team a 14-8 lead with 3:42 left in the first half.
The Bulldogs only crossed midfield once the rest of the game. They had three possessions in the second half. One was a three and out. The next stalled after five plays got them only to their own 47.
Northern Lehigh got across the 50 for its final two plays of the game. The last play, a fake punt on fourth and three from the Pen Argyl 46-yard line, ended their chances of a second straight undefeated regular season.
"We had opportunities," said Bulldog head coach Joe Tout. "We didn't capitalize there on our last drive. We knew it was our last chance. They're a good football team. They did what they needed to do to milk the clock."
Pen Argyl took over and gained three first downs to seal the win. The Knights sustained several long drives in the game. They only went three and out twice. They had two drives of 14 plays of longer and another that went 11 plays. They converted on nine of 14 third downs.
Evans ran for 108 yards on 30 carries.
"The line did extremely well because [Northern Lehigh is] a physical football team," Evans said. "They were blowing open holes all day. They did a tremendous job today."
The Bulldogs had to battle through a few tough breaks. They ran a reverse that resulted in a long kick off return in the first half. It was called back because of an inadvertent whistle, costing them over 30 yards of field position.
There were also two close calls on the sideline where quarterback Dylan Hofmann was called out of bounds when the video seemed to show him staying within the line.
"I'll never talk about officiating," Tout said. "It's part of the game. We'll never blame officials. We still had opportunities to win the game."
The Bulldogs did have opportunities against a talented and experienced team playing its homecoming game. That is something Tout and his staff see as a positive.
"The biggest thing we got out of today was confidence," Tout said. "I thought our kids came out here and played a real physical game for four quarters.
"Now we know what we have to do. We're as good as any team in District 11 Class AA this year. There's no doubt in my mind after this performance."