SOUTHERN LEHIGH MIDDLE SCHOOL – The Southern Lehigh Spartans put on a dominating performance here Friday night against the Wilson Area Warriors, winning 45-14.
Strong, cold winds motivated the two offenses to run the ball during their first two series. Wilson put the Spartans in good field position after failing to convert on 4th-and-1 from their own 37-yard line. But after moving down to the Wilson 20-yard line, Southern Lehigh failed to convert a 4th-and-5 when Wilson defenders stopped junior quarterback Ty Edmond cold after a gain of one yard.
Senior running back Alexander Parker gashed the Spartan defense for a 13-yard run to give the Warriors the ball at their 32-yard line. But after two short runs and a dropped pass by senior wide receiver Kowan Scott, the Warriors were forced to punt.
Senior fullback Luke Gotzon powered the Spartans down the field on consecutive runs of 31 yards and 11 yards. From the Warriors’ 34-yard line, Edmond found senior wide receiver Jeff Smillie open for a 24-yard pass completion. Smillie got the ball again as he broke tackles en route to a 15-yard touchdown catch. Senior kicker D.J. Williams converted the extra point attempt to make the game 7-0.
Wilson then had a miserable series on which its offense lost eleven yards. Luke Gotzon tackled Parker for a loss of three yards, followed by a five-yard penalty for illegal procedure, and another loss of three yards on a fumbled pitch. On 3rd-and-21, senior quarterback Christopher Cooper’s throw landed in the dirt as he ran from Spartan defenders.
The Spartans then wore down the Wilson defense as five different ball carriers ran 11 times on a five-minute, 84-yard scoring drive. Senior halfback Matt Gotzon ran for a total of 27 yards, junior fullback Jake Meluskey ran for 12, Luke Gotzon ran for six, and Edmond ran for two yards. Senior halfback Nick Kirsch capped off the drive with a 29-yard touchdown gallivant through the Wilson defense to make it 14-0.
Southern Lehigh’s defense forced a punt after swarming Wilson’s massive junior fullback Shaquille Cousins on several plays on the next series. But Smillie’s signal for a fair catch proved premature when the ball bounced off his chest and into the waiting arms of the Warriors. Wilson used the play to its benefit, scoring on a 35-yard touchdown pass to Scott on 4th-and-2. Down 14-7, Parker then intercepted Edmonds at the Warrior 29-yard line with less than a minute left in the first half.
The Spartans’ defense held strong, though, forcing a punt with 13.9 seconds to go. Head Coach John Toman used his last timeout to set up a 48-yard field goal attempt for senior tight end Sam Terlingo. With the wind at his back and a strong, straight-ahead kick, fans and teammates rejoiced as Terlingo’s attempt proved good to put Southern Lehigh ahead 17-7 at the half.
Luke Gotzon wasted no time in adding to the Spartans’ lead, scoring on a 50-yard touchdown run just 1:48 into the second half. Wilson then turned the ball over on downs at the Spartans’ 34-yard line, setting up another ground-pounding drive for Southern Lehigh. After Kirsch and Luke Gotzon combined on runs for 51 yards, Edmond ran the ball to the 1 yard-line, which the Spartans turned into six on the next play.
Down 31-7, the Warriors needed a score. They had to start from their own 15-yard line and almost met with disaster when a tipped pass nearly landed in senior cornerback Alex Kocse’s hands. However, freshman running back Brendan Fritz gained 21 yards on a pass from Cooper, followed by a 46-yard bomb to Scott to put Wilson at the Spartan 3-yard line. Cooper found sophomore running back Trey Robinson in the end zone to make the score 31-14 with 1:35 left in the third quarter.
Following the touchdown, the Warriors looked fired up and ready to make the game competitive. With over 11 minutes left to play, the Wilson defense forced Southern Lehigh to bring Williams on to punt. But the snap sailed high and just off Williams’ fingertips. As the football hobbled towards the Southern Lehigh goal line, Wilson defenders swarmed near. Just then, Williams picked up the ball and made the gutsiest play of the game. Running to his left, he drop-kicked the ball left-footed as half a dozen Warriors brought him to the ground. The sideways-spiraling ball sailed, bounced, and rolled for 51 yards to the Wilson 16-yard line. If Williams had lost the ball or let the Warriors take over near the Spartans’ end zone, the game could have very quickly become a 31-21 slugfest. Though he suffered an injury on the play, the quick-thinking of the athletic senior kept Southern Lehigh well in control of the game.
Williams’ kick not only prevented a Warrior touchdown, but put Southern Lehigh in position to get one of its own. Senior defensive end David Givler recovered a Parker fumble deep in Warrior territory. Kirsch quickly turned that mistake into points on a three-yard touchdown run to put Southern Lehigh ahead 38-14.
The Warriors refused to quit despite the setback. Wilson gained a first down after senior defensive end Daniel Ortwein committed a personal foul by tackling Scott after referees whistled the play dead. The hit took Scott out of the game with an unspecified injury, and gave Wilson the ball at their own 42-yard line. Cooper took advantage of the opportunity, driving his team down the field to the Spartan 5-yard line. But Luke Gotzon tackled Robinson for a loss of five yards on a screen pass, followed by a sack by senior linebacker Ray Durkin for a loss of six yards. Facing fourth-and-goal from the Spartan 17-yard line, Cooper overthrew Robinson in the end zone, giving Southern Lehigh the ball with six minutes to play.
Southern Lehigh’s running attack chewed up the rest of the clock. Senior halfback Keaton Eisenhauer put the final touches on the 45-14 victory with a touchdown run in the last minute of regulation.
Southern Lehigh’s next game will be held at Saucon Valley at 7 p.m. on Oct. 22.