When the Panthers took the field Saturday night at Muhlenberg College for the start of the PIAA 4A District XI semifinal against the Allentown Central Catholic Vikings, Coach Sams announced, “I smell a win” as he paced the sideline. Coach Sams must be part Bloodhound because he and his hungry Panthers relentlessly followed the shrouded scent of victory to demolish the Vikings. Saucon Valley capitalized on EIGHT take-aways and advanced to the District XI Final by a score 41-10 score.
With Central Catholic winning the pregame coin-toss and deferring their option to the second half, Saucon Valley received the ball first. The Panther offense sputtered out of the gates in large part due to a holding penalty and was forced to punt from deep in their own territory. Central took possession near midfield and they too had trouble generating offensive traction. However, on 2nd & 14 from the Panther 41-yardline, the Vikings hit a deep “fade” pass down to the 10. Saucon Valley’s defense then stiffened and was able to hold Central Catholic to a 19-yard field goal that ricocheted in off the upright. Central Catholic took a 3-0 lead at the 5:04 mark of the first quarter.
Saucon bounced right back as Ian Csicsek patiently found a seam and returned the Vikings’ kickoff from his own 20-yardline all the way to Central’s 40-yardline. On the very next play Alstan Wolfe faked to Christian Alling up the middle, kept the ball around his left end and tightroped the sideline for a touchdown. The Panthers then lined up for a routine PAT but quickly shifted into a full-house backfield and ran toss-sweep-right for a two-point conversion. With 4:46 left in the opening quarter, Saucon led 8-3.
On the ensuing kickoff, Curtis Clifford was able to strip the ball from the Viking return-man. The ball bounced right into Christian Alling’s arms and the Panther offense was immediately back in business at the Viking 33-yardline. Six plays later Zach Petiet punched the pigskin into the endzone off left tackle. Saucon Valley again opted for a two-point conversion and was successful when Wolfe decided to keep on boot-pass from a “full-house” formation. The Panthers jumped on the Vikings to take a 16-3 lead with 2:28 remaining in the quarter.
Saucon Valley’s squib-kick was returned to the 40-yardline where Central Catholic decided to try and quickly get back in the game. Viking quarterback, Frank Rauscher went deep and connected with Justin Pasquale at the Panther 21-yardline with Ian Csicsek draped all over him. Csicsek was alertly able to punch the ball free while making the tackle and created a fumble. The Panthers Steven Rose was the first responder and scooped the ball from off the turf. Rosie then returned the fumble back to midfield. The Panthers chewed a little time off the clock but were unable to take full advantage of the Viking miscue turning the ball over on downs at the Central 30-yardline.
Four plays later Christian Alling created another Viking turnover when he tipped a pass to himself and converted an interception at his own 35-yardline. Nine plays later “Lightning” would strike up the gut on 3rd & 3 when Zach Petiet ran for a 18-yard touchdown. The PAT try failed, but the Panthers built a 22-3 lead with 4:41 to go in the first half.
On their next possession the Vikings were threatening as they moved the ball to the Panther 35-yardline. On 1st & 10 Rauscher tried to throw a quick play-action slant but Steven Rose was able to knock the ball away from the receiver and into the outstretched arms of Christian Alling who was tracking the play from his inside linebacker position. Alling was able to return his second interception of the night to the Panthers’ 42-yardline. Saucon was not able to cash-in for any points, but they were able to take more time off the clock and keep the ball away from the Viking offense. Alstan Wolfe’s punt backed Central Catholic up to their own 7-yardline.
Three Viking plays later, Rauscher tried to go deep to Pasquale, but Alstan Wolfe high-pointed the ball for another Panther interception. After securing the ball, Wolfe hit the jets and returned the pick back to the Viking 26-yardline. Set up by a 7-yard run by Petiet and a 17-yard completion down the middle of the field to Ian Csicsek, Alstan Wolfe took the plunge for a 2-yard touchdown sneak. The Panthers tried to power the two-point conversion in off left tackle, but it came up short. But, with less than a minute to play in the first-half, Saucon Valley led 28-3.
In desperation mode, the Vikings tried to fire up their hurry-up offense. On 3rd & 9 from midfield Central Catholic’s Rauscher dropped back to pass and found a wide open Alstan Wolfe down at the Saucon Valley 5-yardline. The Panther offense took a knee to kill the few remaining seconds on the clock and jogged into the halftime lockerroom with a 28-3 lead.
It only took two plays into the second half for the opportunistic Panthers to create another turnover. Central Catholic running-back Logan Bachman lost the handle on the football and Saucon Valley linebacker Angelo Mahaffey recovered his fumble at the Panther 28-yardline. The Panther offense, however, ran three plays and punted it back to the Vikings. Nonetheless, it was another possession that Central Catholic squandered as time ticked off the clock.
The Vikings were finally able to sustain a drive. After eleven plays, including a 4th & 10 conversion, Central scored from six yards out when running-back Logan Bachman plowed in for a touchdown. The Viking PAT was good and with 4:59 left to play in the third quarter the scoreboard read 28-10 in favor of the Panthers.
The Panthers roared right back. Using the 1-2 Wolfe & Petiet punch, Saucon Valley covered 80 yards in 12 plays for another touchdown. Wolfe was again able to sneak it into the endzone from 1-yard out on the first play of the fourth quarter. Anthony Kittelstad’s PAT kick was good and the Panthers were up 35-10 with just under eleven minutes left to play.
The Panther defense stiffened again and forced Central into a 4th & 8 from their own 42-yardline. The Viking staff tried a little trickery with a halfback pass that was intercepted by Alstan Wolfe at the Panther 24-yardline. Wolfe trucked 33 yards back into Viking territory where he was run out of bounds. The Panthers forced another Viking mistake and took over 1st & 10 at the Viking 43-yardline. Thirteen plays later, the “Lightning” struck for the final score of the night. Zach Petiet found a little room off left tackle and squirted into the endzone for the score. The PAT was no good, but the Panthers would hold on to win 41-10.
UP NEXT: The No.3 Panthers will play the No. 1 Bethlehem Catholic Golden Hawks on Saturday night at Nazareth Area High School. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Good Luck Panthers, the Source is with you!
Check out these great photos by Chris Christian…….