BANGOR - Northern Lehigh's players heard all week about how Bangor is a big, physical football team. And the Bulldogs took it as a challenge.
On the Slaters' senior night, Northern Lehigh showed that when it comes to playing physical football, it takes a back seat to no team in the Colonial League.
The Bulldogs overcame a one-point, second-half deficit to knock off the undefeated Slaters, 20-7.
"They're a big team," said Northern Lehigh quarterback Dylan Hofmann, who played a part in all three of his team's touchdowns. "We like to pride ourselves on being the most physical tough team in the league. We used it to our advantage and used it to make up for our lack of size."
Slater running back Josh Wing, the league's leading rusher, gashed his way for 168 yards on 23 carries. But he busted only one run over 20 yards and found the end zone just once in the game.
"We just said 'No big plays,'" said Northern Lehigh head coach Joe tout. "The kid's a great back. We knew he was going to have his yards. We told our kids maintain their gaps. They bought into it and did a great job."
Wing had 100 yards in the first half, but didn't get into the end zone until his 20th carry of the game, which came more than six minutes into the second half. Down 6-0, the Slaters handed their workhorse the ball five straight plays on their first possession of the second half. He gained 18, 7, 16, 2 and 15 yards on those runs, scoring with 5:48 left in the third quarter for a 7-6 lead.
Northern Lehigh responded with the game-winning drive. Aided by two Slater third-down penalties that kept the drive alive, Northern Lehigh went 60 yards in 11 plays, taking a 12-7 lead on Hofmann's touchdown pass to Trevor Yashur.
The pass came on fourth and four from the Bangor 18-yard line. Hofmann got good protection, scrambled to keep the play alive, and found Yashur waiting just inside the goal line.
"I was just trying to get to the first down," Yashur said. "I ended up getting my route deep enough to the end zone. I sat down. The line gave Dylan enough time to roll out. And I knew I had to hold onto it really tight."
After a Bangor three-and-out, the Bulldogs got the ball back and added to their lead.
They went 59 yards in seven plays, overcoming a third-down holding penalty thanks to a 27-yard Dalton Johnson reception to keep the drive alive.
Homfann ran in from 11 yards out and got the two-point conversion to put his team ahead 20-7 with 5:10 left.
"Our kids don't panic," Tout said. "We got down and they fought back. When a team scores on us we do a nice job of coming right back."
The Bulldog defense is a big reason the team is able to fight back. It kept the team in the game in the first half when Hofmann twice threw interceptions.
"You have to give credit to our defense," Hofmann said. "I threw two interceptions in the red zone and they got the ball right back. They had to stop a very good offense."
The defensive effort came from many players. Kyle Greenawald, Kirk Bender, the Johnsons, Caleb and Dalton, all made big plays, as did David Getz, Nick Valentini, Kyle Schomp and Dratyon Budhoo.
Hofmann did nice job of bouncing back from those two picks. He went 5 for 5 in the second half for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Hofmann scored three different ways in the game as he also ran back a punt for his team's first score of the night. He found a wall of blockers and exploited the hole to give Northern Lehigh a 6-0 lead with 1:05 left in the first half.
"Hats off to the punt return team," Hofmann said. "That was a big hole. I had to make one move and it was clear sailing from there."
While the Bulldogs made big plays when they needed to, Bangor made some mistakes at key times.
"They're athletes stepped up and made plays," said Bangor head coach Frank Scagliotta. "Our athletes didn't. That's the difference in the game."
The win keeps alive Northern Lehigh's chances at a share of the league title.
It will need a Pen Argyl loss at some point, but the Bulldogs, with Palmerton and Catasauqua left on the schedule, could go 9-1 this season if they keep up the solid play.
The win also helps their District 11 Class AA playoff chances.