ALLENTOWN – For the past seven years, the William Allen football program has been a punching bag in the Lehigh Valley Conference.
So this past season, the Canaries (along with Dieruff), sought refuge in the Mountain Valley Conference.
The move not only gave the Canaries a chance to compete and believe in themselves, it also provided Allen an opportunity to attempt to rebuild its much maligned football program.
That long and tedious rebuilding process took a major step forward at J. Birney Crum Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as Allen posted a 26-14 victory over Lehighton.
The win was the first for the Canaries this season and Allen's first victory as a member of the Mountain Valley Conference. It was also Allen's sixth win in its past 72 games and its first win against someone other than Dieruff (five wins against the Huskies in that span) in the past eight seasons. Allen's last win against a team other than Dieruff was on September 30, 2005, when the Canaries defeated Nazareth 28-6.
"First off, my hat goes off to their coaching staff and the entire Allen program. They did a good job in getting their kids to believe, and believing is half the battle," stated Lehighton head coach Tom McCarroll. "When you have a group of kids that believe just a little bit that they can win, it can certainly go a long way, and that's what you saw out there from Allen today."
"On the other hand, we saw a bunch of kids on our end that I don't think were mentally ready to go," added McCarroll. "I don't know if they took them lightly or not, but we told them all week long that this was a dangerous team. They're certainly a lot better than their record showed and I just don't think our kids were ready to go today. This loss hurts, and to stand here and say we're disappointed would be an understatement."
Lehighton (1-6) took its first possession of the game into Allen territory, but on the Indians fifth play from scrimmage, Christopher Raymond intercepted a Tyler Cann pass.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Indians coughed up the ball once against when they fumbled on the ensuing punt return, which gave the ball back to the Canaries at the Lehighton 35-yard line.
After a methodical 11-play drive, which featured three third-down conversions, Lehighton hit pay dirt when Armando Castillo hauled in a nine-yard touchdown pass from Alivin Lara to put the Canaries ahead 7-0 with 1:44 remaining in the first quarter. It was Allen's first lead of the season.
However, Lehighton wasted no time in answering back, as just 28 seconds later, the Indians tied the game at 7-7 when Cann found Jacen Nalesnik for a 23-yard scoring strike.
Allen, showing plenty of resiliency, answered right back though as Lara hooked up with Trent Clay from 25 yards out on the Canaries ensuing possession, which increased the lead to 14-7 early in the second quarter. The Canaries (1-6) increased their lead to 20-7 on the opening possession of the third quarter. Lara's touchdown throw of the game mid-way through the fourth quarter increased the lead to 26-7.
Lehighton received a 3-yard touchdown run late in the game from Nalesnik to culminate the scoring.
The Indians started the game without the services of its leading passer (Tyler Crumm) and leading rusher (Tom Ruzicka). A banged-up Ruzicka only played minimally on defense and Crumm didn't come into the game at quarterback until there was 3:10 left in the third quarter.
Taking the place in the Indians backfield was running back Wyatt Clements (who had only rushed for 30 yards entering the game) and quarterback Tyler Cann (who entered the game with just one completion for four yards).
"We've been struggling offensively and we just tried to find a spark by opening up our quarterback position this past week," added McCarroll. "But by no means is that the reason why we didn't come out on top today. Our line didn't really do a good job for us and Allen was just tougher and more physical than we were today."