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Saucon outlasts Bombers

HELLERTOWN - If you can’t find Dante Mahaffey, just check the end zone.

The Saucon Valley junior quarterback played a part in all six of his team’s touchdowns on Friday, as the Panthers edged Palmerton in a Colonial League battle, 42-41.

“He’s just a dude,” said Saucon Valley head coach Brad Trembler. “He refuses to let us lose and won’t accept anything else. The throws he made in the second half … He’s just a big-time football player. Previously we’ve been handing the ball off a lot and this is kind of his coming-out party. I’m just so proud of him. As good as a football player he is, he’s even a better kid.”

Mahaffey supplied 321 yards of total offense, however, the Bombers went punch-for-punch with the high-powered Panthers’ offense.

The young Palmerton squad could have easily rolled over and quit after losing a fumble on the game’s opening drive, as Mahaffey quickly tossed his first score on the Panthers’ ensuing drive to take an early lead.

But that’s not who the Bombers are. Palmerton scored on four straight possessions and eventually led 28-14 at halftime.

Trailing in the first frame, Ethan Recker hauled in a 37-yard pass from Cole Serfass to even the game at 7-7.

On Palmerton’s next possession, Lucas Heydt weaved through strong blocking on a 21-yard screen pass from Matthew Machalik to score.

Machalik dazzled on his team’s third-straight score, in the second quarter, as he rolled out of the pocket and finessed a jump-pass over a few defenders down the sideline to Daniel Lucykanish for a 23-yard touchdown.

The Bombers’ 2-quarterback system was clicking on Friday, as Palmerton closed the first half with a 43-yard, perfectly thrown connection between Serfass and receiver James Denicola, who outran the Panthers’ secondary.

“We’re fortunate at Palmerton to have two very good quarterbacks with Serfass and Machalik,” said Palmerton head coach Chris Walkowiak.

“We’ve been bringing him (Machalik) along and he’s been learning the game. He’s a freshman so he’s been going through the learning curve, but he’s’ very mature. He had an excellent week of practice leading up to this game, which helped have confidence in him to go and do what he does. He definitely has the ability, it’s more of the processing and seeing the defenses.”

The second half didn’t feature the beginning Palmerton needed, as Mahaffey found Ty Csencsits for a 29-yard score to open the third quarter.

Machalik was intercepted on a 50-50 type ball on Palmerton’s opening possession, which led to Mahaffey cruising 29 yards to the house three plays later.

“We’ve played two tough teams in Notre Dame and Northwestern, and we were in it for a half, but we kind of fell apart,” Walkowiak said. “I think it hurt us again tonight; lackluster coming out of the second half. We were up 28-14, and next thing you know, it was 28-28. But I was proud of how they responded, they settled back down. It did show a sign of growth and an upward trend in what we’re doing and what we need to do for the rest of the season.”

With 10:31 left in the fourth quarter, Serfass plunged into the end zone to give Palmerton a 41-35 lead, but the extra point was blocked.

Saucon scored what proved to be the game-winner on a 10-play drive with 5:54 remaining. Mahaffey threw a masterful 24-yard, back-shoulder dime to Alex Magnotta just inside the front pylon in one-on-one coverage.

OPPORTUNITY … With two minutes remaining, Palmerton mustered a massive stop of Saucon Valley. The Panthers tried to ice the game on their own 43. On 4th-and-3, the Bombers front-7 stepped up and stuffed Mahaffey to get the ball back. “They were in the formation that we scouted the whole week,” Walkowiak said. “We were expecting Mahaffey running to the tight-end wing. Ethan Recker, and I believe Lucas Heydt, did a tremendous job of coming off of secondary support and stopping him one yard short.”

SHORT MEMORY … The Bombers won’t have a ton of time to think about Friday’s one-point loss. “It really is a one-day-at-a-time approach,” Walkowiak said. “You never know when something can happen. It could be a shutdown for a week or two, or longer. We’re talking about valuing our time and making the most of our opportunities. It’s a tough loss and a bitter pill to swallow. It was a great game for a fan watching, but we need to lick our wounds really quickly, because we have a tough Palisades team next week.”