Lehighton nips North Schuylkill
indians: Lehighton nips North Schuylkill
FOUNTAIN SPRINGS — Tom McCarroll didn’t expect it to be easy when his unbeaten Lehighton Indians visited similarly unbeaten North Schuylkill on Friday night in the Schuylkill League Division I league opener for both teams. It wasn’t. Even with the Spartans playing without their rushing leader, Mitch Wagner, who was nicked up during practice this week, it wasn’t easy.
Even when the Spartans lost starting center Aaron Bolinsky, the keystone to their offensive line, to an ankle injury in the first half, it wasn’t easy.
McCarroll’s Indians, with quarterback Cody Scherer leading the charge, gutted it out to the final seconds in holding off a valiant Spartans comeback attempt to walk off Ghosh Orthodontics Field at Spartan Stadium with a 22-14 victory and their unbeaten record intact.
Scherer passed for 117 yards and a pair of scores to wideout Zack Crum and rushed for 123 yards
and a 74-yard, third-quarter touchdown as the Indians’ difference maker. Every bit of it was needed. “This really is a great win for us,” McCarroll said. “And give a ton of credit to North Schuylkill.
“They’re a well-coached team and I have nothing but respect for them.”
With Wagner, who through the first five weeks rushed for 660 yards and eight touchdowns on 113 rushes, on the sidelines in street clothes, the bulk of the ball-carrying duties were entrusted to Zack Chowansky.
The sophomore, who also plays linebacker, responded in a big way, grinding out 115 yards on 27 tough carries and giving the Spartans an early 6-0 lead with a 2-yard touchdown run at the 10:13 mark of the second quarter.
“Mitch (Wagner) was hurt at practice this week,” North Schuylkill coach Wally Hall said. “It changes things for us.
“Mitch is an obvious threat for us, but Chowansky did a nice job running the football.”
Lehighton got the game’s next three scores, Scherer’s 25-yard pass to Crum in the second quarter, his 74-yard run late in the third and his 63-yarder to Crum midway through the fourth.
At the 7:18 mark of the fourth quarter, the Indians had a seemingly comfortable 22-6 lead.
Then things got interesting.
A 20-yard kickoff return by Scott Grigas put North Schuylkill in business at its own 36 with just seconds over 7 minutes remaining.
Spartans quarterback Doug Weist went to work.
An 11-yard completion following two incompletions earned a first down at the North Schuylkill 47. Two more incompletions, followed by a 6-yarder to Brandon Rockwell left the Spartans facing a fourth-and-4 with 6:07 remaining.
This time, Weist connected with Keith Stavinski for a first down at the Lehighton 40. Two more completions, the second one a 12-yarder to Stavinski, earned another first down at the 26.
A holding penalty, one of eight called against both teams combined, moved the ball back to the 39. Two more completions, one to Stavinski and one to Grigas, followed by another incompletion, left North Schuylkill facing a fourth-and-8 at the 24.
This time, Weist found sophomore wideout Jaden Leiby open downfield, with Leiby’s only catch of the night resulting in a 24-yard touchdown with 4:01 remaining that, after Chowansky’s conversion run, drew the Spartans within eight at 22-14.
A failed onside kick attempt gave Lehighton a first down just shy of midfied.
North Schuylkill’s defense stiffened, forcing a punt that gave the Spartans one last chance, starting at their own 15 with 2:12 remaining.
This time, with Weist hitting five passes, including a 38-yarder and an 18-yarder, both to Rockwell, they again moved the ball down the field.
They reached the Indians’ 7, but a bad shotgun snap resulted in a loss back to the 15. An incompletion left them facing a fourth-and-goal at the 15 with 25 seconds left. Another incompletion at the goal line turned the ball over to Lehighton with 18 seconds remaining.
Scherer took a knee to end the game.
Weist finished the game with 208 yards through the air on a 19-of-36 performance without an interception. Rockwell and Perneta both caught five passes, while Stavinski hauled in four.
“I’m not going to complain about our effort,” Hall said. “The effort was there.
“The bottom line, defensively we need to tackle better.”
Lehighton, at 6-0, has already surpassed its record of last season when it won the four of the first five games, then lost six straight to finish 4-7.
“This was a big win tonight, and it could be a great catapult for us,” McCarroll said. “But every week, we can expect the same kind of game.”
North Schuylkill’s Zack Chowansky is wrapped up by Lehighton’s Brett Gasker (36) during Friday’s Schuylkill League Division I game. Also on the play is Lehighton’s Nate Petit-Clair (84), bottom, and North Schuylkill’s Danny Tomtishen (65). Chowansky...