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Thorpe, Nolehi on collision course

Perennial contending programs, playoff implications and an explosive offense against a tough defensive front.

Those are just a few of the storylines that will be featured this week in the matchup between Northern Lehigh and Jim Thorpe.

Both the Olympians (3-3) and Bulldogs (3-3) are looking to get above the .500 mark and improve their District 11 playoff positioning.

It’s true that there are a lot of intriguing storylines in this one, but the main event will feature Northern Lehigh’s high octane, big-play offense against an athletic Thorpe defensive front. The Bulldogs offense has been fun to watch this season, and their skills were put on full display last week against the No. 1 ranked team in 3A in the state in North Schuylkill. Northern Lehigh put up 42 points in a losing effort, but was still able to rattle off big plays against a talented Spartans’ defense.

The Bulldogs had eight plays of 25 or more yards, along with three touchdowns that covered at least 60 yards in the game. Talented receiver and runner Trevor Amorim had himself a big night, catching touchdown passes of 74 and 72 yards, and also ran 60 yards for a score. Amorim finished with 182 yards receiving, while quarterback Dylan Smoyer finished with 255 yards passing.

“They have an explosive offense, with multiple players that can hurt you. They can spread you out, they can play physical, they can run and they can throw,” said Jim Thorpe head coach Mark Rosenberger. “We’ve been in contention in every game we’ve played this season, but in those games we’ve lost, giving up the big play has been a main contributor to us coming away with a loss. That is something we absolutely can’t do this week. We have to limit the big plays, and limit our mistakes.”

Jim Thorpe got back to its usual winning recipe last week in a convincing win over a struggling Pen Argyl team, but it did so by running the football and playing good defense. Thorpe’s defensive front standouts in Bryson Heydt, Bryan Bowen and Noah Rosahac have been tough to tame for any opposing offense this season.

The “Red Swarm” defense finished the night against the Green Knights with three sacks and eight tackles for loss. The Olympians run game also got going last week as they rushed for 320 rushing yards. Cameron Tinajero led the way with 78 yards, and Deryl Fisher added 74 yards. The Olympians offense averaged over 7.5 yards per play. A new wrinkle to the Jim Thorpe rushing attack was the addition of backup quarterback Ryan Fikentscher, who rushed for 43 yards on six carries, where he was used in an almost wildcat type role.

Northern Lehigh did struggle defending the run a bit last week - as mostly every team has against the Spartans - giving up 240 yards on 30 carries to North Schuylkill running back Josh Chowansky.

“First and foremost, their defensive front is talented and will be a test for us. We have to block them, and do it well for us to be successful on offense. We’ve had a good week of practice, and we’ve really stressed physicality up front and moving people off the ball,” said Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout. “Jim Thorpe always likes to test your discipline defensively as well, so that’s something we’re focused on. They were able to get a lot of success with some counter and reverse stuff last week, and that’s something we’re going to need to be ready for. We also want to get our run game going a little this week, but we’re looking forward to the opportunity against an always tough Jim Thorpe team.”

As noted, playoff seeding will be impacted by the result in this one. Northern Lehigh is currently the No. 2 seed in District 11 2A, while Jim Thorpe is the No. 3 seed in 3A. Both classes accept four teams into postseason play.