Spartans down Bombers
CENTER VALLEY - The Colonial League's best receiver was quiet in the first half. But when Southern Lehigh started getting Jeff Smillie the ball in the second half, his team's offense started rolling.
The Spartans scored on their first three possessions of the second half and five of their six possessions after halftime en route to a 48-14 win over Palmerton.
Smillie made four second-half catches to finish with five receptions for 86 yards and one touchdown. He also broke his school's career receving yardage record with his final grab.
After just one first-half catch, Smillie patiently waited for the offense to look his way.
"That's the way our offense works," he said. "We're a run-first team. We're a Wing-T team. A lot of what makes our passing game great is we set it up so well with running. We're consistent and we pound the ball. We spread the ball out and they don't know what's coming."
The Spartans pounded the ball in the first half, but Palmerton slowed them down. The Bombers gave up 148 first-half yards, but 69 of them came on one play, a 69-yard touchdown catch by Nick Kirsch that gave Southern Lehigh a 7-0 lead with 3:17 left in the first quarter.
Palmerton's defense dug in and didn't allow another point in the first half. However, a blocked punt return by Jared Gerhard put the Bombers in a 14-0 hole heading into halftime.
Southern Lehigh erupted in the second half. Palmerton's defense was on the field for 34 plays in the second half. Southern Lehigh's defense was on for just 25.
"We played well defensively," said Palmerton head coach Paul McArdle. "We kept stopping them over and over. We just didn't get it done on offense. We got some things going in the fourth quarter and our kids kept playing hard, but right now we have to put together four quarters."
The Bombers suffered a devastating blow in the second quarter when running back/receiver Christian Marcin left the game with an injury and did not return.
"The game plan today was to give Marcin as many touches as we could," McArdle said. "He went down early, so that kind of hurt things. We started the game running the ball well. That was the game plan. We got down and we had to abandon that a little bit."
The Spartans made it 21-0 just 2:31 into the third quarter when Luke Gotzon went 26 yards to paydirt to cap a six-play, 50-yard drive.
Their next scoring drive lasted just one play, a 30-yard catch by Smillie on a play where he was covered, but Southern Lehigh quarterback Ty Edmond (6-for-8, 155 yards, 2 touchdowns) laid the ball right into his arms in stride. That score made it 28-0 with 7:20 left in the third quarter.
Southern Lehigh's defense was diggin in. It didn't allow a first down on Palmerton's first three possessions of the second half.
The Spartans mounted their longest touchdown drive late in the third quarter. They went 65 yards on 10 plays, including a 12-yard Smillie catch on a third down that kept the drive alive and a 12-yard scoring run by Matt Gotzon.
Palmerton got on the board when it capitalized on a Southern Lehigh fumble at the Spartan 25. Jared Gerhard scored from 24 yards out on the second play of the drive to make the score 34-6 with 21 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Bombers blocked a Southern Lehigh punt to set up their only other score. After taking over at the Spartan 17, quarterback Zach Freed hit Cody Grohotolski for a 16-yard catch on the second play of the drive.
Southern Lehigh answered with another 10-play, 65-yard touchdown drive. This one was capped by Keaton Eisenhauer's 9-yard run for the score that made it 41-14 with 3:53 left.
The Spartans capped the scoring with a 58-yard run by Jake Meluskey with 1:56 left in the game.