The Morning Call (Sunday)
Northern Lehigh runs past its rival Palmerton, into title game
Northern Lehigh’s defense dominated the first half of Saturday afternoon’s District 11 Class 2A semifinal against visiting rival Palmerton.
But a 90-yard kick return by Matt Machalik and Zack Anthony’s first career interception had the Blue Bombers within three yards and an extra point of the halftime lead.
The Bulldogs defense restored order within the shadow of its end zone and Matt Frame did the rest.
Northern Lehigh stopped Palmerton on third and fourth downs then drove 97 yards for a touchdown with less than three seconds left in the half.
That was enough to maintain control and eventually win 42-27 at Bulldog Stadium.
Frame ran for a career-high 259 yards and three scores and Northern Lehigh held Palmerton in check for most of the game, buoyed by its goal-line stand late in the first half.
“I felt we outplayed them in the first half and could have been losing 14-13 at half,” Bulldogs coach Joe Tout said. “That goal-line stand, J.D. Hunter was huge on it. The senior tackle blew up third down and fourth down.
“And then we were able to move the ball.”
Frame gave the Bulldogs breathing room with a 20-yard run on the first play after the change of possession. Then on third-and-10 from the Blue Bombers’ 36 and the clock winding down, Tout remembered advice from an assistant coach.
“Stevie Hluschak taught me that a long time ago,” Tout added, “run it when they think you’re going to pass.”
Tout gave it to Frame, who burst up the middle, made two cuts and raced down the left side for a touchdown with 2.7 seconds left. Joe Abidelli’s two-point run gave Northern Lehigh a 21-7 halftime lead.
“That was huge,” Palmerton coach Chris Walkowiak said. “We were never able to recover from that.
Palmerton trailed by three scores midway through the third quarter before scoring in three consecutive possessions to get within 36-27.
But Northern Lehigh put the game away when Dylan Smoyer hit Trevor Amorim for their second 12-yard touchdown connection of the game with 3:10 left to seal it.
The teams whomettwo weeks earlier in the regular-season finale — a 31-26 Palmerton win — combined for four turnovers, five first downs and seven penalties in a sloppy first quarter.
Frame stripped a Palmerton runner and teammate Jovannie
Avila recovered on the game’s first series, but Northern Lehigh could not capitalize thanks in part to a holding penalty.
Owen Buck recovered a Northern Le high fumble on a punt, but Palmerton gave it back three plays later when Evan Zambo intercepted a pass.
The Bulldogs cashed in on that miscue despite another holding penalty and an illegal motion infraction. Frame, who had a 47-yard run negated by the holding call, scored on a 39-yard burst with 3:24 left in the first quarter.
Northern Lehigh (5-3) plays Palisades (7-2) for the District 11 Class 2A title at 6 p.m. next Saturday at Whitehall’s Zephyr Stadium. The top-seeded Pirates shut out No. 5 Catasauqua 36-0 in Saturday’s other semifinal.
Palisades beat Northern Lehigh 35-27 on Sept. 25.
Palmerton’s season ends at 3-5.