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Bulldogs bite Falcons in fifth straight loss

Northern Lehigh played in the state semifinals a year ago.

After a 4-1 start midway through the regular season, the Bulldogs are looking to make some more noise in the playoffs in 2022.

Blessed with quality players returning and talented newcomers filling in open spots, Northern Lehigh is a tough matchup for any team - let alone a struggling Salisbury squad.

The Falcons couldn’t slow down their visitors on Friday night, as the Bulldogs cruised to a 42-0 Colonial-Schuylkill League Red Division victory.

“They’re an excellent football team,” said Salisbury head coach Andy Cerco. “They have very big offensive linemen, they have running backs that are over 200 pounds, and those running backs play linebacker. So, our guys are going all three ways against these guys that are out-sizing them by a lot of weight.

“Our kids are playing to the best of their current ability with what we’ve got, and we’re going up against an opponent that’s a really good football team.”

Northern Lehigh showed how good it was right from the start with three touchdowns in under eight minutes.

Bulldog quarterback Nick Frame broke tackles and spun his way to a 40-yard score the first time his team had the ball. After the Falcons went three-and-out, Nolehi’s Bailey Smith blocked a punt to set up another score -this one an 18-yard pass from Frame to AJ Jimenez-Wittong.

Salisbury couldn’t move the ball again on its next possession, and Northern Lehigh moved 34 yards on four plays - the final one a 9-yard TD run by Jack Tosh - to quickly move the score to 21-0.

“Anytime you play at a place that doesn’t have bleachers on your side, that gives you the potential to come out flat,” said Bulldog mentor Joe Tout. “We did that last year. That was our one flat game toward the end of the year. We told our guys to be aware of that. We wanted to come out and do what we have to, and I thought we did.

“Part of our success the last couple years is we’ve been more balanced so we came out, and early on, that was our point of emphasis. We were going to throw early and then get back to our basic stuff.”

The Falcons picked up their first first down of the evening after that third score when Derek Trinidad gained 11 yards on a toss left. But unfortunately for Salisbury, a turnover gave Northern Lehigh the ball back with another short field to work with.

The visitors took advantage and continued their gameplan of throwing the ball, as Frame lofted a 23-yard touchdown to Austin Smyth to make it 28-0 with 3:25 remaining until halftime.

The Bulldogs’ defense forced yet another punt when three played resulted in three yards lost. A little over four minutes later, John Abidelli was in the end zone after a 3-yard run.

A good kickoff return and a 13-yard run by Nick Beck gave Falcon fans something to cheer about, but an interception killed a potential scoring drive.

Big gains of 23 and 20 yards paved the way for Jimenez-Wittong to up the margin to 42-0.

Beck finished with 36 yards on nine carries, which included two 13-yard runs.

“He’s a hard-nosed kid,” said Cerco of Beck. “Give him the ball and he puts his shoulder down and he’s running as hard as he can. And obviously, as you can see, at times that means good things and at times we struggle moving the ball forward. At this point, he’s probably one of our better football players.

“And we try and manage that, too. He’s about 155 pounds, so he’s not a back that can go back in the I and run the ball 35 times a game. But, he’s doing the best he can with what we’ve got going on.”

What Salisbury has going on in the future is another tough matchup this Friday when it faces Palmerton and its outstanding quarterback Matt Machalik.

No matter what happens in that contest, Cerco is sure of one thing.

“(Our kids) don’t back down,” he said. “They’re playing hard all game. I’ve said it a couple of times, they’re playing to the best of their current ability.

“What more can we ask as a coaching staff? They come in at halftime and they want to be coachable and that sort of thing, so those are all good qualities.”

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Salisbury's Jacob Bucchin tries to evade a Northern Lehigh tackler during last week's game against the Bulldogs.
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Toby Linnn takes down a Northern Lehigh ball carrier during last week's loss to the Bulldogs.