Injuries pile up against No. Lehigh
Salisbury entered Friday’s game against Northern Lehigh already without two of its top play makers in running back Chad Parton and fullback Kyle Pingarelli.
If that didn’t make things tough enough, the Falcons lost another one play maker against the Bulldogs. Maybe even their top one offensively.
The Bulldogs (4-3) ran for 247 yards on the ground, led by Justin Paul’s 159, en route to a 27-13 victory over Salisbury (2-5) at Northern Lehigh High School.
“We have a lot of kids that are injured, and if they are not injured they are banged up,” Cerco said. “We scored 13 points with those kids out. Kyle [Pingarelli] makes a big difference, handing it off up the middle and doing some other different things. And then those guys aren’t on defense either.”
One of Salisbury’s other speedy running backs, Timmy Buda, was injured in the first half and did not return to the field. That left Delano McKenzie as the lone experienced running back for Cerco.
The absence of those three, among others, was felt from the opening kickoff. The Bulldogs started the game on a 13-play drive, all running plays, to set the tone immediately. Mike Repsher scored from three yards out to put the hosts up 7-0 in the first six minutes.
Another similar drive stretched into the second quarter. This 15-play drive went 61 yards, capped by a 1-yard quarterback keeper from Gage Hunsicker for a quick 14-0 lead. All but two of those plays were runs.
“We were just pulling people and putting them in different positions to try and get an alignment where we can win matchups,” Cerco said. “In the first two series we weren’t winning matchups defensively. We mixed things up. We ended up playing Jacob Kamp at [middle] linebacker and putting Kyle Killiri on the defensive line.”
McKenzie, who led Salisbury with 40 yards on the ground, got the visiting Falcons on the scoreboard late in the first half. On its best drive of the first two quarters, McKenzie took a first-down carry 13 yards around the right edge into the end zone.
Northern Lehigh answered not even a minute later when Hunsicker found a seam and took a read-option carry 24 yards to pay dirt to increase the Bulldog lead to 20-7 just before halftime.
The Falcons opened the second half with their most impressive drive of the night. But that 10-play drive ended in a 14-yard quarterback sack on fourth down, and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave the ball back to Northern Lehigh on its own 30-yard line.
Nine plays later, Paul finally cracked the end zone on a 3-yard run late in the third quarter for a 27-7 Bulldog lead.
“Our kids played as hard as they could,” Cerco said. “They gave great effort. They were coachable. They played until the end of the game. They had a belief until the end of the game. If we didn’t believe in ourselves, we wouldn’t have moved the ball all the way down there. We had a fourth down and we took a shot at the end zone.”
Kamp scored on a 5-yard quarterback keeper to close Northern Lehigh’s deficit to 27-13 early in the fourth quarter. And the Falcons had an opportunity to get within one touchdown on its next drive before it stalled on a fourth-down play just outside of Northern Lehigh’s red zone.
“Delano is really the only running back with experience,” Cerco said. “Our plan was to get the ball to Jacob, Kyle Killiri and Delano. That’s what we could do. Some of those throws that Jacob made were the right decisions, and that’s just the way the game works out.”
Blake Lettko finished with 24 yards on six carries for Salisbury, while Kamp ran for 21 yards.