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Bombers aim to slow Roughies

“I feel the need… the need for speed.”

That aforementioned quote was made famous by Tom Cruise’s character Maverick as he approaches his F-14 fighter jet in the 1986 motion picture Top Gun.

Maverick’s legendary quote can also be applied to Palmerton and Catasauqua’s matchup on Friday night as both squadrons possess speed and explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball. The Bombers and Rough Riders each will be looking to use their speed to gain a leg up in the District 11 2A playoff ratings, as well as in the Colonial League White Division in the Week 5 Times News Game of the Week.

The Rough Riders have gotten out to an impressive start this season, albeit against inferior competition. Catasauqua is 4-0, but the teams it has faced have a combined record of 0-14. Still, the Roughies have featured an array of offensive weapons, starting with quarterback Christian Fye, who has thrown for 337 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. His backup, freshman Aiden Hess, had to fill in for Fye, who was unavailable last week, and proved his capability in a dominant win over Panther Valley. Hess has thrown for 187 yards and two scores with zero interceptions.

Whomever is at quarterback against the Bombers (3-1) will surely have no shortage of weapons, starting in the backfield with Elijah Soler, who leads the way with 227 yards and two scores, while fullback Anthonie Hunsicker is a force in the power rush game, collecting 158 yards and three touchdowns. Lastly, Hunter Reitz serves as a change-of-pace running back for the Rough Riders, averaging eight yards per carry (144 rushing yards, three touchdowns).

At wide receiver, track star Wyatt Younes has torched opposing offenses with his speed, catching 11 balls for 277 yards and four touchdowns. Over its last three contests, Catasauqua is averaging 39 points per game.

“Communication will certainly be key for us this week. We can’t have any defensive breakdowns, or missed assignments that will allow their playmakers to get the ball in space,” said Palmerton head coach Chris Walkowiak. “Generating a pass rush will also be important for us. We have to really fire off the ball and get pressure on the quarterback, because they both move well in the pocket, and can do damage with their legs as well as their arm. In all, we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing defensively, which has been flying to the football, creating turnovers, and not allowing the big play.”

A pair of underrated position groups for the Bombers this season have been its offensive and defensive lines – two units that are expected to have a big impact on Friday night’s game. Both units have been impressive, with Palmerton’s defensive front proving to be an athletic group that has had success rushing the passer (9.0 sacks, 35 tackles for loss), while its offensive front has paved the way for explosive plays, as evidenced by a 38.8 points per game average.

Against the Rough Riders, the Bombers offensive line unit will need to impose their will from the onset, with Catasauqua yet to face much of a physical presence in the trenches. Palmerton’s rushing attack, led by quarterback Matt Machalik (328 yards, eight touchdowns), Ty Sander (151 yards, two touchdowns) and Lucas Heydt (148 yards, two touchdowns) will look to get going early. Stephen Jones (85 yards, three touchdowns) and Daniel Lucykanish (80 yards, one touchdown) have also helped out in the rushing department.

Thus far, the Bombers rushing attack has racked up close to 200 yards per game, at 7.83 yards per carry and 16 touchdowns.

“Coming into the season, a lot of the attention and hype was surrounding our skill players, which we think we have a pretty good group there, but I think you’re really starting to see our guys up front on both sides of the ball really come together, and they’re playing some pretty good football,” said Walkowiak. “We don’t have the explosive plays on offense, and we don’t get the takeaways on defense without those guys. As most people know about football, the guys on the line don’t get much of the glory, but that’s a group, like I said on both sides of the ball that is playing well for us, and we will need them to continue to play at that level on Friday.”