SOUTHERN LEHIGH MIDDLE SCHOOL – While children nearby trick-or-treated, the Spartan defense scared the Pirates away from the scoreboard for Southern Lehigh’s third shutout of the 2010 season in a 36-0 romp here Friday night.
The Spartan offense didn’t start the game off too well, missing two early opportunities for touchdowns and leaving the Pirates in the game throughout the first half. But early misfires turned into steely determination as Southern Lehigh found its rushing attack and battered the Pirates into submission.
The Spartan defense gave their offense good field position to start the game by forcing Palisades to punt on its first series, and benefiting from an illegal hit penalty on the punt. Beginning at Palisades’ 41-yard line, junior quarterback Ty Edmond moved his team downfield on a 13-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jeff Smillie and several runs by senior fullback Luke Gotzon, and senior halfbacks Nick Kirsch and Matt Gotzon. However, a pass just out of senior tight end Sam Terlingo’s reach, a fumbled snap, and an incompletion that hit the referee, turned a prime touchdown opportunity into a 24-yard Terlingo field goal.
Palisades’ senior quarterback Josh Parris took to the ground on three runs for ten yards before Kirsch intercepted a pass deflected by another Spartan defender. Kirsch’s return put the offense back in the Palisades red zone. But the Spartan offense did not gain another yard on the series. A sack by sophomore defensive end Jake Lynch and a tackle for loss by freshman nose tackle J.D. Donnelly moved Southern Lehigh backwards from the 18-yard line to the 41-yard line. On 3rd-and-33, Head Coach John Toman’s brilliant flea-flicker fell flat when wide-open, senior halfback Keaton Eisenhauer dropped a would-be touchdown pass from Smillie. The Spartans punted back to Palisades and ended the first quarter ahead, 3-0.
However, Palisades’ offense sputtered too. After moving to their own 28-yard line on an eight-yard run by junior running back Justin Marsh, Parris could only move his team another four yards. Several tackles by Matt Gotzon and senior linebacker Ray Durkin provided the impetus for a Palisades punt.
Once Southern Lehigh’s offense got the ball back, it seemed as if they remembered that they could do more than just freeze on this cold, windy night. Luke Gotzon warmed up the Pirates defense on a breakaway 29-yard run to the Palisades 25-yard line, followed by another 10-yard scamper to the Pirates’ 15-yard line. Eisenhauer then got into the action by breaking loose for two runs that ended in a redemptive, seven-yard touchdown run. The extra point attempt was no good, leaving Southern Lehigh ahead 9-0 with 8:27 remaining in the first half.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the Spartans got to continue their habit of quickly scoring multiple times when junior safety Matt Durkin recovered a Marsh fumble on first down. The Spartan offense didn’t let the defense’s efforts go to waste. After Luke Gotzon ran for 17 yards to the Palisades 15-yard line, brother Matt Gotzon, Kirsch, and Edmond continued to move the ball forward. Edmond’s two-yard sneak made the score 15-0. Senior quarterback D.J. Williams’ two-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
Parris’ completion to senior wide receiver Anthony Mayette on the next series was negated by an illegal blocking penalty against Palisades. Facing 1st-and-14 from his own 25-yard line, Parris scrambled for seven yards but came up limping after senior defensive end Daniel Ortwein tackled him. Ray Durkin tackled Marsh after a gain of one yard, followed by Matt Durkin’s tackle on Marsh after a gain of five yards. On 4th-and-1, Luke Gotzon stopped Marsh for a one-yard loss. Southern Lehigh’s offense gave the ball right back to Palisades, though, when Smillie tipped an Edmond pass into Parris’ hands at the Palisades 31-yard line.
The Pirates methodically worked their way downfield in an attempt to make it a one-touchdown game at the half. Mayette picked up 19 yards on first down. Two plays later, junior wide receiver Garrett Emmons moved the Pirates another 20 yards downfield to put them at the Southern Lehigh 30-yard line. Ortwein batted Parris’ first down pass incomplete. Parris connected with Donnelly on the next play, though, gaining 22 yards through the air to get the Pirates to the Spartan eight-yard line. Ortwein and the Spartan defense would let the Pirates go no further, tackling Parris for a loss on first down and benefiting from a holding penalty against Palisades. On 1st-and-goal at the Spartans’ 17-yard line, Parris’ pass to Emmons bounced off the receiver’s chest incomplete. On second down, a scrambling Parris got called for intentional grounding as Spartan defenders swarmed him. Luke Gotzon put pressure on Parris again on 3rd-and-goal from the 25-yard line, allowing him only a one-yard gain. On 4th-and-goal from the 24-yard line, Parris threw a poor pass that senior safety Dylan Phillips dove to intercept at the 2-yard line. After running out the clock, Southern Lehigh went to the locker room at halftime ahead, 15-0.
Matt Gotzon came out fired up in the third quarter, running for 42 yards on the first play to put Southern Lehigh at the Palisades 16-yard line. A personal foul penalty on the play moved the chains to the 8-yard line for Southern Lehigh. Twin brother Luke Gotzon moved the ball five yards closer for his brother to punch it in on a three-yard touchdown run. Williams’ kick made the score 22-0 barely one minute into the second half.
Palisades’ ineptitude seemed to mount in the second half. The Pirate offense earned a false start penalty to turn a 3rd-and-5 into a 3rd-and-10. Senior defensive end Zachary Newhard made things more difficult for the Pirates, sacking Parris on third down for a nine-yard loss. A short punt by Palisades put the Spartan offense on the field at the Pirate 34-yard line.
Edmond got the ball to Smillie for a six-yard gain before Eisenhauer picked up eight more yards to put Southern Lehigh at the Pirate 20 yard-line. After Luke Gotzon gained four yards on the ground, Edmond gained 18 yards through the air on a pass to Terlingo. Kirsch ran for a touchdown on a two-yard jaunt before a holding penalty negated the play. Unfazed and indomitable, Kirsch took the ball back to the end zone on 1st-and-goal from the 12-yard line. Williams converted the extra point attempt to put the Spartans ahead 29-0 with 5:56 left in the third quarter.
Two plays later, Eisenhauer intercepted an overthrown Parris ball to put the Spartan offense at the Palisades 44-yard line. Williams came in as quarterback for the series and connected with Smillie for a nine-yard gain. After picking up eight more yards on the ground, Williams handed off to Luke Gotzon and Eisenhauer for gains of two and eight yards, respectively. Luke Gotzon looked hurt after coming down hard from a leaping reception attempt. After spending time with team trainers, though, the senior shook it off and walked away on his own power. Ray Durkin then came in to run for three yards to the Palisades 14-yard line. An incompletion and false start penalty made it 4th-and-12 for the Spartans. Smillie made a diving attempt to catch Williams’ fourth down pass in the end zone, but the pass fell incomplete.
The Spartan defense didn’t let up on the next series. After senior defensive tackle Tyler Knittle stopped Donnelly for no gain on 2nd-and-10, Ortwein sacked Parris for a loss of six yards. Parris was shaken up on the play but walked off unhurt. His team was hurt on the next play, however, when a high snap to senior punter Skylar Carr forced him to desperately throw an incompletion to avoid a turnover. That gave Edmond the ball back at the Pirate 16-yard line. Luke Gotzon gained eight yards on second down, and Edmond connected with Terlingo for another two yards to get the first down. Luke Gotzon ran in two plays later on a seven-yard touchdown run. Williams converted the extra point attempt to make the score 36-0 with 4.1 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Pirates spent most of the fourth quarter attempting to get on the scoreboard. A Parris pass to junior wide receiver Jason Thompson, and runs by Donnelly and junior running back Tim Kepp, moved the ball to the Southern Lehigh 40-yard line. On 2nd-and-9, the Spartans knocked Parris’ pass to Mayette out of the receiver’s hands. Two runs by Parris and Donnelly gave Palisades a 1st-and-10 at the Spartan 26-yard line. On 2nd-and-10, sophomore defensive tackle Daulton Romano stuffed Donnelly for a two-yard loss. After a Spartan defensive timeout, sophomore defensive end Kyle Durics tackled Kepp after a six-yard gain. On 4th-and-6, Phillips knocked away a would-be first down catch to end the series and preserve the shutout.
The Spartans will next play at Salisbury High School at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5.