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Bombers to host Spartans

Palmerton vs. North Schuylkill.

It’s a matchup that has been circled on both the Colonial and Schuylkill League fans’ schedules since the beginning of the 2023 season.

The 7-0 Bombers host the 6-1 Spartans in what figures to be a packed stadium on Fireline Road. in the Times News Game of the Week.

Offense sells tickets, and that’s what’s going to bring a ton of high school football fans to the gate on Friday night in this one. Both the Bombers’ and Spartans’ offenses have been extraordinary this season.

Palmerton has been one of the most consistent offensive units in the Colonial-Schuylkill League. The Bombers average 45.4 points per game and 439.9 yards per game. The run game has been rock-solid throughout the season for Palmerton, as it averages 310.7 rushing yards per game. The Bombers’ rushing attack is led by All-State quarterback Matt Machalik (1,356 yards, 22 TDs) and senior running back Ty Sander (551 yards, seven TDs).

“Continuity with our offensive line play has been one of the big keys to our consistent offense this season. The credit has to start with our guys up front,” said Palmerton head coach Chris Walkowiak. “We have three seniors in Zack Anthony, Clayton Christman and Alex Konze who have multiple years starting experience and who are battle tested, and then two sophomores in Logan Anthony and Beau Stahler who started last season for us, so we really like this group.

“They communicate well, they do a great job of letting us know what the defense is trying to do, and also, I believe our offensive coaches have really done a nice job with that unit this season.”

There might not be a more balanced offense in the Colonial-Schuylkill League this season than North Schuylkill. The Spartans average 35.4 points and 412 yards per game. The passing attack is right around 183 yards per game, and the rushing attack has been good as well, as it averages 229 yards on the ground per contest.

The Spartans like to spread the ball around, and are led by sophomore signal caller Caden Mengel. Mengel has been efficient with both his arm and his legs as he’s thrown for 1,057 yards and nine touchdowns with just one interception, and has rushed for 535 yards and six scores.

Jaxson Chowansky (454 rushing yards, six TDs) and Ricky Halford (321 rushing yards, six TDs) are weapons in the Spartans’ rushing attack, and speedster Joey Flail has been Mengel’s top target in the passing game, as he leads the team with 20 catches for 384 yards and five touchdowns.

“When you think of them on offense, you think of a balanced team with a big and physical line up front. They have three 300-pound guys on their front, so that is something that you’re going to have to deal with,” said Walkowiak. “I like the way their sophomore quarterback has played. He’s done a nice job of coming in and managing their offense and taking care of the football. He can both run it and pass it well, and he creates some explosive plays for them.

“Defensively, it’s going to be important for us to get off the field on third downs. When you play an offense as talented as them, I don’t think you totally stop them. You have to try and contain them as best you can.”

Coming into the game, Palmerton is ranked No. 2 in the District 11 3A ratings, while the Spartans are ranked No. 3. It looks like a three-team race for the No. 1 spot in 3A between Northwestern Lehigh (No. 1, 7-0), the Bombers and the Spartans.

In a game like this with two good football teams, there’s always a checklist each team needs to try and complete in order to come away with the win.

“For us, we need to first come out right from the start of the game and win up front, and then also establish our run game. As always, we’re going to take what they give us, but establishing the run early is always a primary focus for us. I think establishing another runner in Emilio Gonzalez last week was big and can take some of their focus off Matty (Machalik) and Ty (Sander),” said Walkowiak. “We have also been talking a lot this week to our players at practice about finishing off drives. We have to be able to come away with points when we put together drives that result in scoring opportunities.”