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Bangor runs past Lehighton

If a team can run the football, and do it successfully and consistently, it can control the tempo of the game.

On Friday night, that’s exactly what Bangor was able to do against Lehighton in a Colonial-Schuylkill Gold Division match-up.

The Slaters (4-3) didn’t waste any time going to the ground game in this one and continued to grind and pound the Indians (1-6) up front throughout the night on their way to a commanding 50-14 victory.

Bangor ran the ball 51 times and went to the air just twice.

Lehighton actually got off to a good start, scoring on just their fourth play from scrimmage on a 57-yard quarterback keeper up the left sideline by Brady O’Donnell to give the Tribe an early 7-0 advantage.

But Bangor responded quickly, which would be a sign of things to come, going to its quarterback Eric Striba and running back Kael Godshalk. Striba and Godshalk combined for a big night, and helped the Slaters answer O’Donnell’s score, combining for 61 yards rushing on their first drive, which was capped by a Godshalk 7-yard plunge.

A Lehighton fumble on its next possession gave Bangor the ball back quickly at the Indians 36, and the Slaters cashed in on four plays with an 11-yard Striba score, giving Bangor a 14-7 lead.

After the Tribe turned it over on downs late in the first, Striba then made possibly the play of the game from inside his team’s 10-yard line as time was expiring in the frame. The junior signal caller surged through the middle of the Lehighton defense and went 92 yards to the end zone to give the Slaters a three-score lead and the obvious upper hand and momentum.

“I’m real proud of these kids,” said Bangor head coach Paul Reduzzi. “We were told this was the second most rushing yards in school history for us tonight, which is great. But our goal was to come in and run the football and be physical; that’s always our goal.

“In the second half last week, we kind-of got the run game taken away from us, so we came into tonight with an extreme focus on our run game. In the second half, we came out and played really good defense. We still need to work on giving up some of those big plays; we gave up two big ones tonight, but we did a better job of getting to the football and wrapping up in the second half.”

Lehighton, which did have success moving the ball in the first half, had two key turnovers in the first half that halted all of its momentum. Trailing 28-14 after another long touchdown run (58 yards) late in the second quarter from O’Donnell, the Indians got a big stop defensively, forcing Bangor to punt, giving them the ball with just under two minutes remaining.

But an interception on just the second play of that drive gave the ball back to the Slaters at their own 49.

“The turnovers were a killer for us tonight, but we also have to do a better job of getting off the field,” said Lehighton head coach Tom McCarroll. “There’s been a stretch here where we’ve been struggling consistently and I need to look in the mirror a little bit and do a better job of putting our players in position to be successful more consistently.

“They came out in the second half and they were able to control the line of scrimmage. So, credit to them, but we all need to take a step back and just work on becoming a better football team.”

The Slaters came out in the second half and went into ground-and-pound, running 19 plays to the Indians three in the third quarter. A 7-yard Godshalk touchdown run made it a 35-14 lead after three, putting the game out of reach for the Tribe.

DYNAMIC DUO ... Striba and Godshalk combined for 413 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns on the night at an impressive 9.8 yards per carry.

THE BIG PLAY ... Most of the Indians’ offense came off two big runs from O’Donnell of 57 and 58 yards.

MOVING THE CHAINS ... Bangor came through with 20 first downs and rushed for a total of 472 rushing yards, which was second all-time in school history. The school record is 502 rushing yards.

Lehighton's Brady O'Donnell breaks free from Bangor's MJ Siu (85) on his way for a touchdown Friday night. The Slaters' Jacob Weaver (86) tries to chase down the Indian quarterback. The Indians, however, dropped a 50-14 decision. RICH SMITH/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS