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Northern Lehigh downs Thorpe

Northern Lehigh’s passing attack has gained plenty of attention this season.

But on Friday night, the host Bulldogs showed that there’s still nothing wrong with their ground game.

Unable to move the ball effectively through the air, Joe Tout’s club came up with enough big plays running the ball to pull out a 27-17 victory over Jim Thorpe.

“We told our kids that Jim Thorpe’s strength is their defensive line and we haven’t been really happy with our offensive line progression, so we challenged them this week,” said Tout. “We knew their defense was going to make plays, but we were able to pop some and do enough to win.

“This was just a tough game that we were finally able to pull out. This was definitely a good win, a quality win against a good team.”

Matt Frame finished the contest with 120 yards rushing and a touchdown and also delivered key blocks to open up lanes for his teammates.

“It definitely feels good being able to run the ball again,” said Frame. “All year, we’ve been able to pass very well and we’ve beat teams with the pass. Opening up the run again is definitely going to help us moving on through the season.”

The ground game was especially big in the second half after the Olympians threatened to take the lead.

Trailing 13-3 at the break, Thorpe gained mometum when Derryl Fisher returned the second-half kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown. Soon after, the visitors forced a Nolehi punt and were driving for a go-ahead score when a fumble killed the march.

It also gave momentum back to the Bulldogs (4-3).

Frame picked up a key first down with a 5-yard run on a fourth-and-one, and two plays later Trevor Amorim broke free down the right sideline for a 55-yard score to extend the lead to 19-10.

After Northern Lehigh’s defense forced a three-and-out, and its special teams blocked a punt, the Bulldogs were in position to do damage again.

Quarterback Dylan Smoyer had a big 11-yard gain before Izaiah Ramos got loose for a 35-yard touchdown run that pushed the margin to 27-10.

“In every one of our losses, there have been a lot of self-inflicted wounds,” said Jim Thorpe mentor Mark Rosenberger. “You can get away with it versus some teams, but not against a team like Northern Lehigh. (The kick return) did give us some momentum, and then we got a stop right after that. But then we turned the ball over again.

“They’re very explosive. They have big play potential at every position skill-wise. We knew coming in they had explosive ability, and I thought we did a pretty good job a lot of the game. But unfortunately, one or two times they get away from you and that’s the difference in the game.”

The Olympians (3-4) cut into the advantage with an impressive 80-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard scoring run by David Fiorito. But Thorpe simply ran out of time, as the Bulldogs kept the ball on the ground and ran off the final 6:45 by picking up three key first downs.

“A bunch of kids came through there on that last series,” said Tout. “Ramos was huge (getting 11 yards on a third-and-10), and we snuck Nick Frame in at quarterback and he gave us a big gain (getting 13 yards on a third-and-12). That was a great way to finish the game.”

DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS ... Northern Lehigh’s defense allowed only one touchdown, a far cry from last week’s game against North Schuylkill. “We were disappointed last week and were a bit embarrased with the amount of yardage (673) that we gave up,” said Tout. “I thought our defense played well tonight. We got better this week.” Thorpe’s defense also played well, especially its line, as Bryson Heydt, Noah Rosahac, David Wiley and Bryan Bowen clogged the middle and also got pressure on Smoyer.

SCORING PLAYS ... The Bulldogs threw for only 70 yards, with 33 of them coming on their first series, which ended with an 11-yard TD run by Matt Frame. The winners finished with 273 yards on the ground. Smoyer was able to throw one scoring pass, an 8-yarder to Brett Misera in the second quarter that was set up by a bad snap by Thorpe on a punt attempt. The Olympians’ first-half score was a 25-yard field goal by Keiran Mele.

MISTAKES, MISTAKES ... Jim Thorpe had three turnovers, which included two interceptions by Nolehi’s Misera, but three bad snaps also resulted in negative-yards. “We fought, but we just have to learn to eliminate the mistakes,” said Rosenberger. “If we can do that, the sky’s the limit for us.”

Northern Lehigh's Matt Frame (35) looks to get around Jim Thorpe's David Florito. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS