New playing surface. Same old Bulldogs.
Playing its first game on the new artificial turf at Bulldog Community Stadium, Northern Lehigh jumped out to a big league on this year's Colonial League favorite, beating Southern Lehigh 33-7.
"It doesn't matter that we don't have the mud," said Bulldog receiver Darien Middaugh. "We're still going to come out and punch people in the mouth."
Northern Lehigh recovered an onside kick and three Spartan fumbles in the first half, taking a 26-0 first-quarter lead.
"The kick off helped," said Bulldog head coach Joe Tout. "The turnovers helped. And we did a good job of being physical. It doesn't matter what the surface is. We're still going to hit."
Northern Lehigh players heard talk that Southern Lehigh was one of the favorites in the league this season. They relished the chance to play them in Week 1 and took advantage of every opportunity early in the game.
Middaugh showed off his speed on the new field in the first seconds of the game. He took the opening kick off 82 yards for a touchdown.
"Darien's run back was the best thing that could have happened," said quarterback Dan Marsh, who rushed for 109 yards and scored three touchdowns in the game.
The Bulldogs got the ball right back on an unintentional squib kick that was recovered by Kris Seiler at the Spartan 34-yard line.
Five plays later Marsh ran in from a yard out for a 12-0 lead with 8:27 left in the first quarter.
Southern Lehigh ran its first offensive play with 8:19 left in the quarter. It fumbled on its next play.
Northern Lehigh capitalized, going 39 yards in three plays capped by Marsh's 28-yard touchdown pass to Middaugh.
When the Spartans got the ball back, down 18-0 with 6:56 left in the first quarter, they ran just five plays before losing another fumble.
This time Northern Lehigh used just one play, a 53-yard Marsh touchdown run for a 26-0 lead.
The Bulldogs added one more touchdown in the second quarter when Caleb Johnson ran 18 yards for a score to make it 33-0 with 8:14 left in the first half.
Southern Lehigh avoided the shut out by scoring with 4:15 left in the game when Travis Edmond connected with Nick Heiser-Koch on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Marsh went 3 for 6 for 44 yards in his debut as starting quarterback. He got some of his rushing yards out of Northern Lehigh's Bulldog formation, with Johnson and Farber doing the lead blocking.
Farber racked up 67 yards. Johnson was targeted a lot in the passing game, but had just one catch for two yards to go along with his 55 yards rushing.
Despite the score, Tout believes Southern Lehigh is still one of the league's top teams. He knows his team wanted to prove it is one too.
"The motivation was knowing that they are a league favorite this year," he said. "They should be. They're that good. I'm proud of our kids."