Late Rally Comes Up Short For Nazareth
By Brian Ptashinski BPtashinski on Twitter
The Freedom Patriots jumped out to a 34-7 lead and then had to sustain a furious Nazareth fourth quarter rally to hold on for a 34-27 win at BASD Stadium in Bethlehem Saturday night.
Freedom began the scoring spree facing a fourth and one from the Blue Eagle 43. Running back Dashaun Peterson ripped off a 57-yard run around the end with 5:59 left in the first quarter. Peterson, who rushed for 163 yards on the night added a one-yard score later in first half. The Patriots then scored on a halfback pass from Alec Huertas to Nizayah Speaks for a 31-yard touchdown with 3:34 left in the half, giving his team a 20-0 lead at intermission.
After returning a Nazareth punt to the Blue Eagle 40, quarterback Joe Young wasted little time taking advantage of the field position as he placed a perfectly thrown ball to Huertas streaking down field. He made a great catch in the end zone giving the Patriots a 27-0 lead with eight minutes left in the third quarter. Peterson scored his third touchdown on a four yard run with under a minute left in the quarter. That score was an answer to the Blue Eagles score as Zac Kiefer was on the receiving end of a Travis Stefanik 17-yard strike, leaving the score at 34-7 heading into the final quarter.
Stefanik took over, throwing the ball on nearly every down as he led a scoring rally on three straight drives. He connected with Julian Liaci with a 15-yard pass at the 11:01 mark. He used his legs after being chased out of the pocket and bobbed and weaved his way through the Patriot defense on his way to a 25-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 34-19 with 7:02 left on the clock. Nazareth managed another score as A.J Vlasaty took it in from five yards out with 2:41 to go. Stefanik, who threw for 303 yards in the contest on 18 competitions, had one last chance to try to tie the game on fourth down. The pass was incomplete, as Freedom sent in Young to play DB. He knocked down the desperation pass to seal the deal. The win ends a three game losing streak for the Patriots(4-4 overall 3-4 EPC South) as they will face inter-city rivals Bethlehem Catholic and Liberty the last two weeks of the season, with postseason aspirations still in play.
“Our kids and coaches held it together tonight. Losing three in a row late in the season is not where you want to be thinking about playoff scenarios. We just needed to stay positive and keep working,” said Freedom coach Jason Roeder afterward. “This was a huge victory for our psyche going forward.”
Though this was a tough loss for Nazareth, they did hit one milestone as Travis Stefanik became the school’s all-time career leader for passing touchdowns at 53 with the score to Keifer. Nazareth (4-4 overall, 4-3 EPC South) will be at home Friday night as they face Liberty, who lost a disappointing 31-20 game to Emmaus Friday night.
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