Falcons fall in season finale
Salisbury walked into Southern Lehigh for its regular season finale and dominated time of possession in the first quarter. The Falcons, however, didn’t have any points to show for it.
And once Southern Lehigh’s offense got into a rhythm in the second quarter, it never looked back. It was highlighted by its star running back Asher Smith.
Smith ran for 325 yards and five touchdowns as Southern Lehigh (9-1) scored 31 points in the second quarter en route to a 58-22 victory on Friday night. The Spartans finished with over 600 yards of total offense, including 589 yards on the ground.
“Coming out and playing that way, controlling the ball the way we did, that’s a good thing,” head coach Andy Cerco said. “For us to win a game like that, we have to do that every time we touch the ball offensively. And that’s not realistic in any football game. I don’t care who it is. But for us to beat a team like that, that needs to be a consistent thing throughout the entire game.”
Salisbury (6-4) looked impressive in the first quarter. The defense halted Southern Lehigh on its first drive in large part to an eight-yard sack from Blake Letko on a fourth-and-9 play.
The offense then took over and picked up on the defense’s momentum. The Falcons connected on two third-down conversions and a fourth-down opportunity on the drive, setting up a 34-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter. That attempt was blocked by the Spartans’ defensive line.
That stop seemed to fuel the Spartan offense. Cam Fisher (131 rushing yards on six carries) took the next play 81 yards down to Salisbury’s 11-yard line, and Hunter Hughes got the Spartans on the scoreboard with a touchdown run on the next play.
The Falcons were forced to punt on each of their next three drives, and the Spartans capitalized every time. Smith ran for 75 yards on Southern Lehigh’s ensuing possession—capped by an 8-yard touchdown—that put the hosts ahead 14-0 with 4:32 remaining in the half.
Smith added touchdown runs of 36 yards and 59 yards just before halftime to give the Spartans a 28-0 lead. A 32-yard field goal as time expired in the half made it a 31-0 advantage at halftime.
“He’s a big, strong, tough runner,” Cerco said of Smith. “It becomes difficult to bring him down in a one-on-one scenario. When he has kids like he does blocking for him, it makes his job a little bit easier.
“There were a lot of times where we set the edge, but the pursuit from the inside out got caught up because they were down blocking and we couldn’t get through that. They basically created a wall, which is where you saw some of those big runs.”
Smith and the Spartans kept it rolling in the third quarter. A 34-yard touchdown run on Southern Lehigh’s opening drive of the half put the mercy rule in play. His final score—a 26-yard burst around the left side—increased the lead to 45-0.
Salisbury’s offense gained some momentum late. Quintin Stephens—who threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns—got the Falcons on the scoreboard late in the third quarter with an 8-yard pass to Chad Parton.
After a Spartan three-and-out on its next drive, Salisbury’s offense was back to work. Timmy Buda took the next play 33 yards to pay dirt to cut Southern Lehigh’s lead to 45-14 early in the fourth quarter.
Stephens connected with Kyle Pingarelli for a 42-yard touchdown with 2:09 to cap Salisbury’s scoring. Buda led the Falcons with 56 yards on the ground, while Parton caught nine passes for 113 yards. Pingarelli finished with 67 receiving yards.
“With them being a Class 5A school and us being a 3A school, that’s about what we should be able to do with them being a 5A school of that caliber,” Cerco said. “That’s a huge difference. That’s all it comes down to. You can see, schematically our kids were in the right spot.
“Our kids played hard. They were coachable throughout the whole game. Our coaches are still coaching. The kids are still playing hard. Those are important things to me.”