Bugbee shows why he’s tops
He throws two TDs, runs in another as Nazareth stays unbeaten with win over Freedom
One of the most anticipated matchups of the abbreviated Eastern Pennsylvania Conference football season didn’t turn out as planned Friday night at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium.
It was not only a battle of unbeatens and the last two District 11 Class 6A champions, but it was also a meeting of the No. 8 ranked team in the state in 6A this year, Nazareth, and No. 10 Freedom.
But one team played with the quarterback it has had all season and the other was forced to go with someone whohad not played before.
That was perhaps the key to the Blue Eagles’ 21-7 victory.
Senior Matt Bugbee, who entered the game as the leading passer in the EPC, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. Hewas 17 for 26 passing for 266 yards.
Meanwhile, the Patriots had to go with sophomore Ethan Neidig at quarterback after junior Brian Taylor, who played quarterback in the team’s wins over Northampton and Easton, was ruled ineligible because of a residency issue.
Considering he didn’t practice as the starter until Wednesday, Neidig did well. He was 13 for 23 passing for 146 yards and alate TDand ran seven times for 21 yards.
“That’s a difficult thing for them to deal with obviously,” Nazareth coach Tom Falzone said. “Coach [Jason] Roeder is a great coach and we knew he’d have his guys fired up and ready to play. Weknowtheskill they have and the strength they have up front. I’m proud of the effort the kids gave tonight. They played some gutsy defense and held that zero on the scoreboard for a long time until we coughed one up at the end.”
Bugbee threw TD passes to Joe Capobianco and Jaiden Cabrera and also scored on a short run as Nazareth improved to 4-0 overall, 3-0 in the EPC Northampton Division.
“At first we came out a little slow, but then we picked it up and just played our game how we know and how we love to play,” said Cabrera, whohad seven catches for 117 yards. “You have to give big props to our offensive line for giving [Bugbee] enough time to scramble and find me so I can make a big play.”
Cabrera said that regardless of who played quarterback for the Patriots, the opponent still featured a quality defense that held Easton scoreless for the final 35 minutes of a 21-10 win last week.
“We just needed to execute and get the job done on offense,” Cabrera said. “Them having a new quarterback didn’t mean anything. We focused on stopping [Matt] Russin and the run game. We just had to be physical and punch them in the mouth.”
The Blue Eagles moved quickly down the field with its first possession, getting a 31-yard completion from Bugbee to Cabrera to the Freedom 7. However, the drive stalled there and Bugbee missed a 26-yard field goal attempt.
Two possessions later, he was accurate with a 59-yard TD pass to Capobianco for the game’s first points.
The Patriots tried to answer with a drive set up by a partially blocked punt. Taking over at the Nazareth 26, Freedom managed a first-andgoal at the 6.
The Blue Eagles tightened up from there and Aleksander Kwiatek intercepted a pass in the end zone and ran it out to the 11.
That set up an 11-play, 89-yard drive highlighted by a 40-yard pass from Bugbee to Cabrera to the Freedom 20. Three plays later, Bugbee leaped into the end zone and then added the PAT to make it 14-0 at halftime.
The Patriots were held to 80 yards in the first half, 26 of them coming from Russin on 10 carries.
Nazareth extended the lead to 21-0 on its first possession of the second half when Bugbee hit Cabrera for a 34-yard TD pass.
Freedom had several chances to get on the board with three consecutive drives into Nazareth territory. Two of the possessions ended on fourth down and another concluded with a Capobianco fumble recovery.
Finally, the Patriots got on the board one play after a Marcus Kreidler fumble recovery as Neidig found Owen Johnson-McCormick for a 27-yard strike with four minutes left to avert the shutout.
“I amextremely proud of the way [Ethan] handled himself and the way he played,” Roeder said. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him. He did a great job.”
Roeder said his defense gave up way too many explosive plays.
“We’ll look at the film, keep our kids together and get it fixed,” he said.
“We’re going to turn the page.”
King and queen
Freedom announced its Homecoming king and queen at halftime.
Football player Jeremiah Espinosa, a tight end and linebacker, was named the king and basketball player Jewel Levy was honored as the queen.
Both teams return to BASD Stadium next weekend. Nazareth plays Liberty at 7 p.m. Friday and Freedom faces Bethlehem Catholic at 3 p.m. Saturday. All five of the Patriots regular-season games are at BASD Stadium.
Nazareth quarterback Richard Bugbee, left, and Jaiden Cabrera celebrate a touchdown against Freedom.
Nazareth’s Jaiden Cabrera brings in a long pass, setting up the second Nazareth’s TD in this EPC“Battle of the Unbeatens”Friday night at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium.