Thorpe turns back Blue Bombers
The final score of Friday night’s game between Palmerton and Jim Thorpe was up in the air until the very end.
With 25 seconds left in the fourth quarter and with the Bombers at the JT 45-yard line and trailing 17-14, quarterback Matt Machalik fired a pass toward the end zone. The ball was in the hands of the Bombers receiver at the two-yard line, but the ball was juggled up and onto the shoulder of Olympians’ safety Matthew Stauffer, where he snatched it and sealed the victory for the Olympians.
“The game was not lost on one play,” said Palmerton coach Chris Walkowiak. “We didn’t execute during the game and we missed too many opportunities.”
Jim Thorpe (1-1) executed their game plan perfectly, especially in the first half. The Red Swarm defense started strong on the first play from scrimmage when Jave Butler broke through and sacked Machalik for a 10-yard loss after a mis-snap from center.
Following a Bomber punt, Thorpe drove to near mid field, but on a third-and-nine, Emilio Gonzalez intercepted a pass to set up his offense at their own 45. JT’s defense continued to contain Machalik, last week’s Times News Player of the Week, holding him to just 20 yards rushing in the first half.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Olympians began an eight minute drive from their own nine-yard line. On a first-and -0 from their own 19, they operated a flea-flicker to perfection off their scissors play. A double hand off gave the ball back to quarterback Brett Balliet, who threw a strike to freshman Justin Yescavage streaking across the middle for a 39-yard gain.
With Cameron Tinajero, Derryl Fisher, David Fiorito, and Sal Capria all lugging the rock, the Olympians drove to the Bombers eight-yard line, where Kieran Mele booted an 18-yard field goal to send Thorpe into the locker room at half time ahead 3-0.
“We wanted to control the time of possession and keep the ball away from Machalik and we did just that for most of the game,” said JT coach Mark Rosenberger.
At the start of the third quarter, Capria began to be Thorpe’s go-to guy, as he diced and sliced the middle of Palmerton’s defensive line on a drive that put the ball in the red zone. On a second-and-nine, Balliet rolled left and found tight end Bryson Heydt for a 16-yard TD pass.
“Brett made some nice throws,” said Rosenberger, “and we showed some good balance with our run and pass game.”
Ahead 10-0 and still containing Palmerton’s offense that put up 46 points last week, the Olympians took advantage of a dropped punt snap at the Bomber 20. Five carries by Capria ended with his two-yard score and a 17-0 Thorpe lead.
“We were down 17-0 and we didn’t fold,” said Walkwiak, referring to a fourth quarter comeback by his team that nearly ended in victory. “We have 24 gutty kids on this team. Jim Thorpe is a good football team and I’m proud of the effort we gave right to the end.”
Machalik, never frustrated by his lack of production for a good part of three quarters, rallied his team with three minutes left in the third quarter. On a second-and-10 from the Thorpe 34, he bounced off right tackle for a 22-yard run to the 12 and then hit Daniel Lucykanish for a 12-yard score in the left corner of the end zone.
Then trailing by 10 with 8:51 left in the game, on a fourth-and-nine from midfield, the Bombers (1-1) executed a hook-and-ladder pass from Machalik to James DiNicola, who lateraled to Stephen Jones for a first down at the Olympians’ 31. Four minutes later, Machalik broke off left tackle and scored on an eight-yard run.
Palmerton would get the ball back with 2:16 to play, but its chance to win was decided by a juggling football that changed hands two yards from the end zone to end the threat.
Rosenberger was obviously pleased with his team’s performance.
“We played 48 minutes with energy and passion tonight,” he said. “We preached to keep going on every play until the whistle blows and overall, it was a great team performance.”
THE DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES
... Last week, Thorpe struggled on offense and gave up big plays on defense, while the Bombers scored almost at will and made big stops on the defensive end. Thorpe turned the tables in Friday’s triumph.
SUPER SOPH SAL
... Capria was a horse running downhill for 118 yards on 23 carries. His relentless runs up the middle not only moved the chains, but ate up the clock and kept Palmerton’s offense from unleashing their multiple scoring weapons.