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Palmerton rally comes up short

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    Palmerton’s Jordan Nelson tries to get away from a Pen Argyl defender. RICH GEORGE/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    Palmerton’s Andrew Sabo tries to break away from a group of Pen Argyl defenders during Friday night’s game. RICH GEORGE/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published September 21. 2019 02:03AM


Palmerton’s Chris Walkowiak was left with a “glass half full or empty” scenario after Friday’s 28-21 loss to Pen Argyl.

While his Blue Bombers got off to a miserable start, digging themselves a four-touchdown deficit, they also showed tremendous fight by nearly rallying all the way back.

In the end, though, the result was a fourth straight loss and thoughts of what could have been.

“We definitely were flat, and we were waiting for things to happen instead of making things happen,” said Palmerton’s head coach. “ ... But I’m definitely proud of their effort. There was no quit in them at the end.

“We talked to them about having a start that dictates the tone, and we obviously didn’t do that. Credit Pen Argyl for making plays and doing things ... The fourth quarter is a positive to build off of, but it’s still frustrating at the end of the night where we just need to play better, execute better, and get better overall.”

To say the Bombers (1-4) played better down the stretch would be a huge understatement.

Trailing 28-0 and facing a possible mercy rule situation, Palmerton instead mounted a valiant comeback effort. Jordan Nelson completed five passes during a 69-yard drive, the last one a 16-yard scoring strike over the middle to James Denicola on the final play of the third quarter.

After a three-and-out and a botched punt attempt by the Green Knights (2-3) gave the host team excellent field position early in the fourth frame, it only took two plays for the Bombers to get back in the end zone. Andrew Sabo did the honors with an 8-yard touchdown run, cutting the margin to 28-14 with over nine minutes left to play.

With momentum now on its side, Palmerton’s defense came up with another stop. It didn’t take long for the offense to convert again, as Nelson hit Dylan Bartholomew for a 17-yard pickup before going deep to Denicola for a 49-yard touchdown throw.

Unfortunately for the Bombers, their offense would never touch the ball again. Pen Argyl ran the ball nine consecutive times, converting on a fourth down and a third down to run out the clock.

“We like that old smashmouth football in Pen Argyl,” said Green Knight mentor John Smith about his team’s final possession. “Give the offensive line credit. We played with a lot of grit and a lot of heart, and we beat a really good football team. My hat is off to Palmerton, they have some really, really tough kids.”

While the running game sealed the deal for the winners, it was their passing attack that made the difference early.

Pen Argyl’s Collin McKeague made three third-down catches in the opening half to help the Knights build their advantage. The junior receiver first made a fingertip grab in the end zone to complete a 33-yard touchdown that opened the game’s scoring. He then snared a 17-yard toss to keep another drive alive that eventually resulted in a short TD run by Connor Fehr.

Finally, with time winding down in the opening half, he hauled in a pass from Gavin Amerman and broke free for a 62-yard score and a 21-0 lead.

“It’s fundamental football — get to third down and then get off the field, we preach that all the time,” said Walkowiak. “They hurt us on two or three big plays, and they converted a few other third downs throughout the night. And that hurt.”

It didn’t help, either, that Pen Argyl took the opening possession of the second half and pounded the ball downfield, finishing its march with a 4-yard Fehr touchdown run and a 28-0 bulge.

In the end, that proved to be just enough to hold off a fiesty Palmerton squad.

QB TURNAROUND ... Nelson completed only two of his first 14 attempts, although he was hurt by a few dropped balls. After that, thought, he finished the game completing nine straight passes.

THIRD DOWN SUCCESS ... Pen Argyl finished 8-of-15 on third down conversions, two of which were over 10 yards. Palmerton ended 3-of-9.

DOWN THE ROAD ... The Bombers have a tough task in their next game as they’ll take on Northwestern, who is 4-1.


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