Palmerton comes up short against Saucon Valley
HELLERTOWN — Palmerton faced adversity last week when it found itself in a 20-0 deficit within the opening two minutes against Southern Lehigh.
The Blue Bombers once again faced some adversity on Friday night when starting freshman quarterback Lucas Heydt was injured on the opening series. Palmerton once again responded, but it wasn’t enough to take down Saucon Valley.
Senior running back Ian Csicsek ran for over 200 yards and three touchdowns as the Panthers remained unbeaten with a 34-26 victory over Palmerton.
“We had one quarterback go down, and the next one stepped up,” head coach Chris Walkowiak said. “The other one had some injury things coming in and out. We have three quality quarterbacks who we worked with all offseason. We didn’t really miss a beat (no matter) who was in.”
Seniors Aaron Stasko and Cody Waterhouse both produced key moments for Palmerton in Heydt’s absence. Saucon Valley, however, seemingly always had an answer.
Down 34-26 after Csicsek scored his final of three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Palmerton (0-3) had its chances to tie the game. The Blue Bombers’ ensuing drive went to Saucon Valley’s 45-yard line before stalling. The visitors got the ball back one last time with 1:23 to play, but could not cross midfield in the final moments.
“I believe we competed,” Walkowiak said. “I’m proud of them. We’re not here for a consolation loss, or that we just played with them. Saucon Valley is a great team. They are a well-coached team. They are way bigger than us, and they outsized us tremendously. Our kids are gritty. They fought to the end.”
After Christian Alling scored from three yards out to put Saucon Valley (3-0) ahead in the first quarter, Palmerton wasted no time in responding. Stasko capped a 12-play drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Sabo on the first play of the second quarter to tie the game.
Csicsek capped another long drive for Saucon Valley — this one 12 plays — with a 1-yard touchdown to put the Panthers back in front. Quarterback Dante Mahaffey then hit tight end Patrick Morrissey to give the Panthers a 21-7 advantage.
Palmerton had an answer. Watterhouse hooked up with Jordan Nelson with 14.2 seconds remaining in the half to get the Blue Bombers within a score. The Blue Bombers would get within a point at 21-20 when Stasko hit tight end Buck Owen for a touchdown in the third quarter.
“[Csicsek] is a very good kid,” Walkowiak said. “It starts up front for them. Their line is unbelievably big. Obviously he had 200 and some yards because they run the ball with him all the time. We didn’t tackle well at times, and he made plays. Overall we got better and took it up another notch tonight.”
Csicek’s second touchdown run gave Saucon Valley some breathing room with a 28-20 advantage late in the third quarter.
Palmerton would respond with Stasko’s third touchdown pass of the game — this a 61-yard bomb to Nelson to get the Blue Bombers within 28-26. The two-point conversion was no good, and Palmerton wouldn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
TOUGH OPENING STRETCH ... It’ll be tough to find a team in the Colonial League with a tougher start than Palmerton. The Blue Bombers face arguably the top four teams in the league to open 2018. They’ve started 0-3 with losses to Palisades (49-14), Southern Lehigh (33-14) and Saucon Valley. “We’ve obviously played some top quality teams in this league, and we’re right there,” Walkowiak said. “We want to take the program to the next level. We know we need to win these games in order to do that.”
WHO’S NEXT? ... The Blue Bombers will take on Notre Dame-Green Pond, another tough opponent, in Week 4. Game time is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at Palmerton.