NOCKAMIXON TWSP - Northern Lehigh head football coach Joe Tout could see it coming.
Over the past three weeks, the Bulldogs managed to remain undefeated. Yet, Tout knew his team lacked some consistency in its play over the previous two weeks before it met Palisades last night.
That was it reared its ugly head in a 34-12 loss to the host Pirates (2-2), who snapped their two-game losing streak in an impressive showing in the process. The Bulldogs had some spurts, but they couldn't piece enough of them together to gain their fourth win of the season (3-1).
"At times, Palisades seemed to want this game more than we did," Tout said. "This has been coming for us. Ever since we played a good first half against Southern Lehigh, we had two inconsistent games in row."
Tout noted a drive that ended on a fourth-down at the Palisades' seven-yard line early in the second quarter when the Bulldogs were down 7-0. Quarterback Dan Marsh scrambled out of the pocket, but he couldn't find anyone. Northern Lehigh had marched down the field behind the running of Marsh and Nate Farber, who both broke free for long runs on the drive.
After both teams exchanged punts, Palisades increased its lead to 14-0 in the final minute of the opening half, and it proved to be a potential back-breaker for the Bulldogs.
"We had a nice drive in the second quarter and we started to get things going," Tout said. "But we need to come away with some points and we didn't. If we could have scored, we could have turned the game around.
"On the other hand, Palisades went into the locker room with a 14-0 lead and that hurt."
Palisades upped its margin to 17-0 on a field goal to open the second half before the Bulldogs responded when Marsh scooted around the right end and broke free on a 35-yard touchdown scamper that brought the Bulldogs back to 17-6.
But Northern Lehigh couldn't stop Palisades' running attack in the second half as the Pirates came back with a 10-play, 56-yard march on the ground that resulted in a 24-6 deficit with 2:18 left in the third quarter.
Northern Lehigh quickly closed the gap to 24-12 when Caleb Johnson took a handoff, closed the corner and then cut back toward midfield through a host of Palisades' defenders on a 61-yard gallop toward the end zone in the final minute of the third quarter.
The Bulldogs later started a drive form their own four-yard line after being pinned back off a punt, but their night ended when a Marsh pass was intercepted.
It proved to be a night that will likely generate some re-evaluation.
"Caleb made some nice plays, but we don't have 11 guys on the same page," added Tout. "It's on me and I have to do a better job coaching. We may have to change things, scale down some things. We have to grow an identity right now. If we are going to be a playoff team, we will need to win seventy or eighty percent of our games."