SV ground game beats Salisbury
Saucon Valley ran the ball on 45 of its 47 offensive plays last Thursday night. And Salisbury head coach Andy Cerco knew heading into the game that would likely be the case.
The only problem was the Falcons couldn’t find an answer for the Panthers’ ground game.
Saucon Valley (3-1) ran for 444 yards and averaged over nine yards per carry in its 41-22 victory over Salisbury last week on the Panthers’ home field. Both of the Panthers’ passes were incomplete.
“That was definitely a difficult thing for us—to get a stop defensively,” Cerco said. “Our kids were doing everything they possibly could to get a stop. They are a good team, and they were executing their scheme and technique very well.
“That’s the byproduct of a lot of things. Our situation that we are in, in terms of school size compared to theirs.”
As the game progressed, it seemed tougher for the Falcons (2-2) to get a stop defensively when it needed it most.
Down 34-22 early in the fourth quarter, Salisbury turned the ball over on downs. The Falcons still had the clock on their side with over 11 minutes remaining.
Saucon Valley, though, used the combination of running backs Damian Garcia and Chris Mann for a 13-play drive to eat much of that clock and go up 41-22 after a 12-yard touchdown run by quarterback Dante Mahaffey on a third-and-goal.
The Falcon defense had Saucon Valley in four third-down plays and one fourth-down try, but could not get the necessary stop.
“If we get those stops, we’ll probably score again,” Cerco said. “But in the second half we only ran 13 offensive plays. We need more than that. And it was a matter of them executing their offense really well.
“I know they had a couple of linemen that were 260 or 280 pounds. That in and of itself is going to be difficult for us to deal with. And we have to deal with it. We have to find ways to make things happen.”
Garcia ran for 246 yards on 20 carries, good for a 12.3-yard average. Mann recorded 82, Mahaffey added 68 and three touchdowns, and Bradyen Lugardo rounded out the total with 48 yards and three touchdowns.
The Panthers went in front 7-0 on the second play of the second quarter on a 20-yard touchdown run from Mahaffey.
Salisbury had an answer though through the air. Quintin Stephens, who completed 16 of 29 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns, hit Timmy Budda for a 9-yard pass to get Salisbury within 7-6 on its next possession.
“Early in the game we forced them to punt,” Cerco said. “In that situation, we won on first down, and we forced them into a longer situation than they are comfortable with where they tried to throw the ball and wasn’t successful. So it can happen at times, but over the course of four quarters it’s tough.”
The Panthers’ ground game went back to work immediately. Garcia took Saucon Valley’s next play from scrimmage 74 yards down to Salisbury’s 1-yard line. Mahaffey then leaped over the pile for a touchdown run. After a Falcon punt, Lugardo capped a four-play Panther drive with their third score of the half for a 21-6 lead.
Stephens then ran for a 12-yard touchdown and his two-point conversion run got Salisbury back within a touchdown at 21-14 right before halftime.
Another touchdown—this one a 4-yard strike from Stephens to Chad Parton—and a two-point conversion got the Falcons within 28-22 with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
Salisbury only ran five more offensive plays the rest of the way before the starters were pulled late in the fourth quarter.
“There’s a couple of times where we went to throw a screen and they covered it, so Quintin ran it, which is great because they are covering and it’s kind of by design,” Cerco said. “We want to be able to run the football, but when we got our guys on the front line and their guys on the front line, it’s not conducive to run the ball 20 times a game. Our offensive line was doing a great job with pass protection, so with that it was like ‘Hey, let’s take what we can get.’”