Nalesnik, Tribe rout JT
Bob Ford/TIMES NEWS Lehighton's Billy Angst tries to break away from Jim Thorpe defenders Michael Cacace and Brandon Parramore.
On a night Lehighton coach George Ebbert said his seniors would remember forever, an underclassman had a game that won't soon be forgotten.
The Indians' Jacen Nalesnik piled up over 300 yards from scrimmage and scored six touchdowns to lead his team to a 55-6 mercy-rule victory over Jim Thorpe on Friday.
Nalesnik scored touchdowns in every quarter and did it in a variety of ways to help Lehighton post its most lopsided victory in a decade.
"Jacen was amazing," said Ebbert. "He was a one-man gang.
"He just does it all for us. Tonight he scored from the halfback position, he scored by taking direct snaps from center in our Apache Formation, and he scored as a receiver. He's just a phenomenal athlete."
Nalesnik said it was definitely a game to remember, but the 6-2, 215-pound junior obviously preferred to spread the accolades around.
"Coach Ebbert gave me a good number of carries at running back and in the Apache Formation so that helped me put up the numbers I did," said Nalesnik. "I also got great blocking the entire night. There were huge holes almost every time I got the ball."
Nalesnik and the Indians' first score came with 1:09 left in the opening quarter when he took the snap out of the Apache Formation and raced around left side for a 22-yard touchdown. The TD came on a 4th-and-three play and was part of a 14 carry, 254-yard rushing performance by Nalesnik.
The touchdown also opened the floodgates as Lehighton would go on to score five times in an incredible span of just 5:54.
Nalesnik showed his ability as a receiver on the next score, hauling in a 36-yard TD pass from Josh Agosto just one play after a Jim Thorpe punt. The next time Lehighton touched the ball, Agosto hit Anthony Farole with a 25-yard scoring pass.
It was back to the ground game after that as TD runs of 46 yards by Zach Coleman and 50 yards by Nalesnik made it 35-0 with 7:15 remaining in the half.
"We played really well tonight," said Ebbert. "We came out on fire and never let up.
"Our defense did a great job of getting us the ball in good field position and our offense came up with a lot of big plays. I don't think our first team offense was stopped all game. We didn't have a turnover and we never had to punt with our first team on the field."
Nalesnik, who displayed his speed on his first two touchdown runs, showed off his power right before half as he powered into the end zone from six yards out in the final seconds of the opening half to make it 42-0.
Nalesnik capped his huge night by catching a seven-yard scoring pass from Agosto on the opening series of second half and then racing 85 yards for a touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the game.
Despite the decisive victory, the Indians' outside chance at an Eastern Conference playoff berth didn't materialize as a victory by Allentown Central Catholic eliminated them.
"We didn't get the help we needed to make the playoffs, but this was a great game for our seniors to go out on," said Ebbert. "We got a big win over our rivals and everybody got to play.
"I told them this is a game they would remember forever so they had to make sure it was a good memory and they went out and made sure it was."
The Lehighton margin of victory, which was it biggest since a 49-0 win over Panther Valley in 2001, didn't sit particularly well with Jim Thorpe coach Mark Rosenberger.
"Give the Lehighton players all the credit in the world," said Rosenberger. "They played a great football game. But it was obvious they were trying to run it up on us. They made some comments about us scoring 62 points against them a few years ago. But in that game our star offensive player didn't even score in the second half, much less run for a long touchdown in the final minute of the game.
"But that's okay. It's fine. We only had five seniors and four juniors playing tonight. There were a lot of freshmen and sophomores out on that field. What goes around, comes around and I'm sure our young kids are going to remember this."