Lehighton defense steps up
Bob Ford/TIMES NEWS Lehighton's Monty Thompson breaks away from Ryan Saunders of Jim Thorpe to score a touchdown on Saturday.
Lehighton's defense may have saved its best for last.
And because of it, the Indians were able to hoist the Route 209 Trophy for the second year in a row.
Holding host Jim Thorpe to its lowest offensive output of the season, Tom McCarroll's squad registered a 27-6 victory Saturday in both team's season finale.
"Thorpe had one of the best offenses I've seen on film all year," said McCarroll, whose defense limited the Olympians to just 172 yards. "They have probably the most single dangerous player that we've seen all season in their quarteback (Pat Duvigneaud).
"My hat goes off to our defensive staff. They did a great job coaching the kids up considering we only had one and a half days of practice. Our coaches put in so much time in the film room and to get everything across to the kids and then for the kids to execute it, I can't say enough."
What especially had to please McCarroll was the effort his defense put forth in the second half. Leading 14-6 at halftime, Lehighton (3-7) didn't allow its explosive opponent to ever get in a rhythm. In fact, the Indians' D gave up just four yards in 18 plays over the final two quarters of the game.
"We just couldn't get anything going," said Jim Thorpe head coach Mark Rosenberger. "Give credit to Lehighton. They had a lot of different stunts going on and they confused our line a little bit ... They got some pressure on our quarterback too. They had a nice gameplan.
"Coach (Frank) Miller has done a great job with our offense this year, but unfortunately the last two weeks we just haven't been in synch offensively."
The Indians' offense, meanwhile, scored on its first possession to take a lead it would never relinquish and then put the game away with a pair of scores in the second half.
Freshman quarterback Tyler Cann moved Lehighton 73 yards in 10 plays to help give his team a 7-0 start. Cann connected with Monty Thompson, who raced 32 yards with the game's opening score.
The Olympians (1-9) quickly responded on their next possession. With the aid of two Indian personal foul penalties, Thorpe moved 79 plays to paydirt. Duvigneaud hit Ryan Saunders in the end zone with an 11-yard scoring strike to trim the deficit to 7-6.
"Ryan had a good game catching the ball for us," said Rosenberger. "He had some big plays receiving. We just weren't consistent on offense."
Jacen Nalesnik provided consistency for the Indians after he moved to quarterback in his team's Wildcat formation which is called Apache.
Nalesnik broke off a 48-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter and had a long tally called back in the third frame because of a penalty. That third quarter drive still resulted in a score, as Wyatt Clements broke free for a 23-yard jaunt to the end zone.
"Jacen's such a special player," said McCarroll. "The last 3-4 weeks he's been our go-to guy. If there's a player that's more valuable to any program in this area I'd be hard-pressed to find him. He's such a competitior and a warrior. He just puts the game on his shoulders sometimes and goes with it."
Nalesnik, who finished with 156 yards rushing, tacked on a three-yard touchown run early in the final frame to give the Indians complete control.
"Lehighton played hard tonight," said Rosenberger. "Nalesnik is a tough football player. He's a great player and his running ability and ability to break tackles really was key for them."
"There's no better way to go out than with the 209 Trophy," said Nalesnik. "The past couple of games we've been running the ball real well. On defense we gave up a couple plays here and there but overall we stopped them pretty well."