Final drive cements win over Palmerton
The Salisbury football team has come up with many impressive offensive drives through the first nine weeks of the regular season. But its most notable may have come last Friday night.
Holding a one-touchdown lead over Palmerton midway through the fourth quarter, Salisbury used a 13-play drive that drained nearly the entire game clock and lifted the Falcons (6-3) to a 28-14 win on Senior Night. It was the team’s second straight win.
“We had to pick up first downs to win the game,” Salisbury head coach Andy Cerco said. “We had to do something to win the game. It wasn’t exactly pretty at times, but they were able to move on from it. That’s a good thing. They are learning and growing.”
Salisbury converted three third-down plays on that drive alone—two passes from quarterback Quintin Stephens to Chad Parton, and a 14-yard run on a third-and-3 from Stephens.
The Falcons also connected on a fourth-down play to end the drive when Stephens found Weston Schaffer for a 24-yard touchdown that gave Salisbury a two-touchdown lead with 5.9 seconds remaining.
“We needed to pick up a first down to ice the game,” Cerco said. “And that ended up in a touchdown. In all honesty, we told Quintin that we want him to sprint out, hold it, drain as much time on the clock, and if you see something you like, then hit it.”
Instead of opting for a potential 40-plus yard field goal that would have put the Falcons in front by 10, there was never any doubt what Cerco and the Falcons had planned.
“We wanted to get the ball to Chad Parton on that play, and they triple-teamed him,” Stephens said. “Weston Schaffer, a senior receiver, worked so hard after practice. Him and I worked together, ran routes and everything. I think practice last week running a lot of routes helped with the big play.”
Parton intercepted Lucas Heydt’s pass on Palmerton’s next play from scrimmage to seal the win. He finished with 140 yards of offense as well (76 rushing and 64 receiving).
Salisbury started off fast, particularly on the ground. After receiving the opening kickoff, Timmy Buda capped a nine-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown plunge through the middle of the line.
After Salisbury’s defense forced a turnover-on-downs after six plays, the offense got back to work. On the first play of the drive, Kyle Killiri scampered 62 yards untouched to pay dirt for a touchdown and a quick 14-0 advantage.
“We talked about that this week was huge for us because we have a big opponent for us the following week,” Stephens said, referring this Friday’s rivalry game against Southern Lehigh. “We came in here and took care of business. That’s what our coaches asked us to do all week.
“We worked really hard in the offseason, and we’ve been playing together since we were like five years old. For us to have that bond together and work no matter what going into the season, was excellent.”
Palmerton did not quit though, and Salisbury faced its share of adversity throughout the rest of the game. Jordan Nelson returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown to cut the Falcons’ lead in half.
Then, after lost fumbles on two consecutive series, Palmerton took advantage. Alex Sabo (25 carries for 181 yards) ran 10 times on the Blue Bombers’ next drive, including an 8-yard touchdown that tied the game at 14 with 2:04 remaining in the half.
But just as it looked like Palmerton could take the lead after a quick three-and-out from Salisbury, the Falcons shifted momentum once again. Schaffer secured an interception on a first-down throw from Nelson that gave Salisbury the ball back with under a minute remaining. Stephens hit an open Buda for a 41-yard strike on the next play to put the blue and white in front 21-14.
“Things didn’t exactly stay on schedule or go according to plan, but we were able to take it for what it was and understand that there were things that we couldn’t control,” Cerco said. “What we can control is our attitude and effort.”
Stephens completed 12-of-19 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown. Buda also eclipsed 100 total yards on offense, including 66 on the ground on eight carries. Kyle Pingarelli caught two passes for 51 yards.