Falcons’ toughest test awaits in NDGP
Last week’s matchup in the trenches was undoubtedly a difficult challenge for Salisbury. But Week 5 might present an even tougher encounter for the Falcon football team.
The Falcons return home for their third home game of the season at Salisbury High School, but will have to deal with the big offensive and defensive lines from Notre Dame (Green Pond). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Friday night, which will be another game in which proceeds will be raised for pediatric cancer during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
“Their offense line is all big guys,” head coach Andy Cerco said. “Every single one of them is over six feet. And every single one of them is over 220 pounds. Their smallest guy is 220 and everyone else is 235 and above. We have one of those guys. When we get to play like Palmerton or Northern Lehigh, they’ll have one or two of those big guys, too.”
Salisbury will also have to shift its defensive focus. After facing Saucon Valley’s run-heavy offense last week, the Falcons’ defense will have to adjust for a Notre Dame aerial attack that features a few similarities to Salisbury’s own offense.
“They’ll take some vertical shots and throw the ball down the field,” Cerco said. “But their bread and butter is throwing short. Obviously we’re going to have to adjust our defense. Last week we had like nine guys in the box trying to make a tackle. If we can get the ball bounced outside, that’s going to be better for us to deal with tackling somebody.”
It’s a bit unclear who will line up under center for the Crusaders (3-1). In last week’s 50-14 win over Palmerton, it was Notre Dame senior Andrew Darno that took the snaps. He passed for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Darno was the Crusaders’ top receiver entering the game and still leads the team with 20 receptions for 277 yards and four touchdowns.
The Crusaders’ starting quarterback and backup were injured in Week 3 against Southern Lehigh. Sophomore quarterback Collin Quintano started the season and has thrown for seven touchdowns in three games, but only threw 11 passes back in Week 3 before leaving the game. Junior Nick Oligino threw 18 times against the Spartans and recorded two touchdowns.
Cerco isn’t sure who will get the nod on Friday night, but he knows the offense won’t change much, if at all.
“Their offensive plays won’t change no matter who is in there,” Cerco said. “It’s going to be similar. With their original starter they may take some more vertical shots, but still primarily they are going to try to get the ball off quick and run those screens, slants and short hitches.
“Last week they were running the ball a little bit more because they moved a wide receiver to quarterback. I’m guessing they had some injuries to their main guy and maybe their backup.”
Sophomore Derek Berlitz has caught 19 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown through four games, including five catches for 80 yards last week. Senior Christian Greggo leads the Crusaders with five receiving touchdowns and also has 205 yards through the air. Juniors Joey Falle (13 receptions for 150 yards) and Izzy Rodriguez (7 receptions for 103 yards) have also proven to be viable options in the passing game.
“I think it’s going to come down that race again where can we match their scores, because they are going to score,” Cerco said. “They are a good offensive team.”
Handling a majority of the work out of the backfield is junior running back Matt Frauen, who has a team-high 434 yards and four rushing scores. Greggo has added 106 yards and three more scores on the ground.
“They like to run inside zone a bit,” Cerco said. “The quarterback will pull it and run around the end, so our linebackers have to be disciplined.”