Salisbury Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Salisbury's Devin Irwin tries to stretch out over the goal line during last week's game against Catasauqua. PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Salisbury's Devin Irwin tries to stretch out over the goal line during last week's game against Catasauqua.

Falcons seek first .500 season since '07

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 by TODD KRESS in HS Sports

Salisbury finally broke through in the West Division with its first divisional-game victory last week against Catasauqua.

Back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Northern Lehigh kicked off the Falcons' division schedule after going 3-2 against the East Division.

Not only did that win bring the Falcons (4-4) back to .500 on the season, it tied their highest win total for a season in the last five years. Salisbury won four games in 2009. But now it has a chance to take one more step forward under head coach Andy Cerco. A win in either of its two final games solidifies a .500 record for the first time since Salisbury went 5-5 in 2007.

A meeting against Palmerton (5-3) lies ahead in achieving that feat, with kickoff on Friday night at Palmerton High School at 7 p.m.

"I think it would mean a lot for our players and for the school community," Cerco said. "That's definitely a significant step in the right direction. What it means for us is that our players are buying into our way of doing things, and they are getting to where we want them to be as players and students in the school."

After starting off the season 3-0 against East Division opponents, the Blue Bombers have experienced a tough division slate themselves. They beat Catasauqua 44-7 a week before the Falcons took down the Rough Riders, but the Blue Bombers also experienced two of their worst defeats of the year in recent weeks against top-notch Colonial League foes.

Against Northwestern last week, the Bombers fell behind 29-0 in the first half before losing 50-21. Nearly three weeks ago, Southern Lehigh had its way with Palmerton in a 68-21 victory. Northwestern and Southern Lehigh remain atop the Colonial League standings at 7-1.

Sophomore quarterback Garrett Perschy is behind center for the Bombers' spread offense. With his ability to run and throw when called upon, Palmerton poses a dual threat.

"They're a true spread team," Cerco said. "You can tell that their quarterback is coached to make the correct reads, and he does a really good job with it. With that scheme, we have to be disciplined.

"It's a lot like defending the option. You have to do your assignment and be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there, so we give him the read we want."

Perschy has completed 58 of 92 passes for 868 yards this season. He also rushed for 68 yards on 17 attempts last week.

Tre Nelson is the Bomber's leading ball carrier in an offense that has rushed for a total of 1,173 yards in eight games. While he had just four carries against the Tigers last week, he's a gifted runner that earned him a Colonial League Honorable Mention selection last year.

"Their running back is a big, physical kid," Cerco said. "He's very much a downhill runner, and if there is a vertical seem there, he'll find it and hit it."

Nelson, a 2013 Colonial League First-Team selection at linebacker, has also been a standout in the interior of the Blue Bombers' defense. He already gave a verbal commitment to Monmouth University, and Cerco knows he's the leader of that unit.

As a team, the Blue Bombers have given up 875 yards on the ground, just over 100 yards per game to opposing offenses. For an offense that likes to spread the ball throughout its backfield, the Falcons will need to get that consistent rushing threat going.

"We have to be aware of where he is," Cerco said. "Hopefully with some of our motion and some play-action pass, we can kind of neutralize his abilities. He is a downhill runner, and defensively he is a downhill player.

"They run a base 4-4 defense. They all do what they're supposed to do. They run around pretty well."