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Big plays lead Pen Argyl past Bulldogs

PEN ARGYL – Records aren’t always indicative of talent – or effort. That’s something Northern Lehigh and Pen Argyl can attest to.

Both teams have been just a few plays away from finding the win column in the Colonial League during the first half of the season.

The Green Knights broke through Saturday.

Pen Argyl used big plays on defense – and an opportunistic offense– to knock off the Bulldogs 34-27.

“It’s big. The kids have worked hard,” Green Knights’ head coach Paul Reduzzi said. We’ve been on a little bit of a roller coaster in terms of playing well, playing bad.

“Overall, what I think, and I shared this with Joe (Tout, Northern Lehigh head coach), I think it says a lot for the two programs, that two 0-5 teams came out and played hard here today. Both teams played their hearts out, and I think that shows what type of programs both schools are.”

That intensity was evident throughout a back-and-forth first half that saw the teams trade touchdowns on the first three series of the game.

But two turnovers helped Pen Argyl (1-5) turn a tie game into a 27-14 lead early in the third quarter.

Derek Herfurth’s 63-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Green Knights a 21-14 advantage with just under a minute remaining in the second quarter.

The momentum carried into Northern Lehigh’s (0-6) opening possession of the second half, when back-to-back penalties put the Bulldogs at their own five-yard line.

With Northern Lehigh facing 2nd-and-25, the Pen Argyl defense brought pressure and cashed in. Eric Fleming recovered a fumble in the end zone to make it 27-14 with 11:00 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

“We didn’t execute, and the penalties were a big part,” said Tout. “Give them credit. We preached all week about turnovers, turnovers, and we still had them.”

Northern Lehigh responded with a seven play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 43-yard touchdown run from Justin Paul (17 carries, 165 yards) to cut the Green Knights’ lead to 27-21 midway through the third quarter.

The Bulldogs forced a three-and-out on Pen Argyl’s next possession, and Mason Seiler (22 carries, 140 yards) capped Northern Lehigh’s ensuing a six play, 38-yard drive with a two-yard plunge to tie the game at 27-27 with 2:21 remaining in the third period.

The Green Knights had an answer, though this one didn’t come from the defense.

After delivering touchdown runs of 45 and 64 yards in the first half, running back Logan Sterner provided the decisive blow with his arm. Sterner executed a halfback pass to near perfection, hitting Tadd Barr in stride for an 81-yard score to give Pen Argyl the lead for good with 2:04 left in the third quarter.

“I was proud of the way we fought,” Tout said. “We never gave up.”

TRICK OR TREAT … Northern Lehigh went deep into its bag of tricks Saturday. The Bulldogs opened the game with a successful onside kick that resulted in a three-yard touchdown from Seiler and a 7-0 lead. That wasn’t all. Lined up in punt formation on 4th-and-3 at their own 40-yard line, Paul took a direct snap and raced 17 yards for a first down. The junior went 43 yards to the end zone for his second touchdown of the game on the next play.

ANYTHING YOU CAN DO … After Sterner and Barr connected for a score, the Bulldogs also attempted a halfback pass on their next possession, but were unsuccessful.

GROUND AND POUND … Northern Lehigh ran the ball 58 times for 388 yards. The Bulldogs finished with 403 yards of total offense to Pen Argyl’s 247.