Mistakes lead to loss in opener
After holding Saucon Valley to just two yards and a three-and-out on the Panthers’ first offensive possession deep in their own territory, Devin Irwin’s punt return positioned Salisbury with a prime opportunity on their second series.
While a first down at the Panthers’ 11-yard line put the Falcons in a promising scoring position early, they couldn’t take advantage of that gift.
A scoring connection from quarterback Tevon Weber to tight end Kyle Hartzell was called back on a Salisbury holding penalty. On the next play, Weber was called down nine yards in the backfield before he shoveled a pass to Nick Sikora, who ended up scampering down the left side of the field for another potential score.
That all but summed up Salisbury’s night. Saucon Valley (1-0) built an early 19-0 lead in the first half, and the Falcons (0-1) couldn’t recover in their season-opening 39-15 loss at Salisbury High School.
“I think our players played extremely hard,” Falcon head coach Andy Cerco said. “I’m proud of them for how they played. We need to internally eliminate errors, and that really was the thing here in the first half. We had two scores taken away because of errors.”
Following those missed opportunities, Saucon Valley responded with an 11-play drive that started at its own 3-yard line. On the second play of the second quarter, Evan Culver (149 rushing yards on 23 attempts) plunged across the goal line from four yards out to put the Panthers ahead 7-0.
Quarterback Zach Thatcher and the Panther offense continued to roll for the rest of the half. Thatcher orchestrated another lengthy drive, scoring in nine plays on the senior quarterback’s two-yard sneak for a quick 13-0 Saucon Valley advantage.
Then, another Salisbury miscue led to a Saucon Valley score. A muffed kickoff handed the ball back to the Panthers and the lead turned to 19-0 after another Thatcher (221 total yard and three touchdowns) rushing score.
“We have to get back to the grindstone and get back to work and eliminate those errors,” Cerco said. “That’s going to help us in the long run here in the season. It’s a long season. We still have nine games.”
Salisbury got on the scoreboard at the end of the half with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Weber to Alex Kubinec to bring the Falcons to within 19-7.
But once the Panthers’ offense got rolling, there was no stopping that train from moving forward. Mike Paolini’s five-yard scamper into the end zone put Saucon Valley up 25-7, and while the Falcons responded with a Weber-to-Hartzell touchdown set up by Mason Donaldson’s 67-yard catch, the Falcons never got closer than 25-15.
Culver added his second touchdown on the next series, and Thatcher connected with a wide-open Nate Harka (five catches for 130 yards) to put the final stamp on Friday night’s contest. It was one of a number of instances where Panther receivers found themselves open behind the Falcons’ secondary.
“The coverage was called and it wasn’t executed,” Cerco said. “We just have to tighten the screws on that, and make sure they are clear on what their responsibilities are. And they are clear on what their responsibilities are, it’s just in the heat of the battle and all that stuff, things happen.”
Weber threw for 238 yards to pace Salisbury’s offense. And while their 15 points didn’t quite match last season’s 36 at Saucon Valley, Cerco saw plenty of positives on that side of the ball.
“We moved the ball pretty well, and we sputtered and sometimes we couldn’t finish,” Cerco said. “Again, that comes down to errors.”
Salisbury faces Palisades on Friday night looking to even their mark at 1-1. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.