Pirates Run Table as Panthers Walk the Plank
To Run in the November 2nd Bucks County Herald
Palisades’ 33-6 home Friday night rout of Saucon Valley added so many points to the Pirates’ glittering 2017 resume.
The win gave Palisades (10-0) a perfect regular season. It clinched their first outright Colonial League football championship as well as the number one seed in the District 11 AAA playoffs.
It marked a win on Senior Night…against the defending League champions. And it was the first time since 2009 that the Pirates could hoist the Bicentennial Trophy, given to the winner of the Palisades-Saucon Valley series.
“It’s a lot to process right now,” said running back Jared Colletti. “We had never beaten Saucon in my career. It’s great to go 10-0 but also to beat teams that have beaten us before. I remember when they came down here two years ago and demolished us.”
“It’s their work ethic,” credited Palisades coach Kevin Ronalds. “They’re very talented but their day to day work ethic…they don’t have let downs. We don’t have to motivate them.”
Ronalds’ business as usual approach last week paid enormous dividends. “We practiced this week the same as last week and the same as the week before,” Ronalds continued. “It’s amazing. It could have been (emotional) but it really wasn’t. Some people could easily get distracted because of what was at stake. They didn’t.”
“We were definitely a little bit ahead of ourselves,” admitted linebacker and fullback Kyler Newton. “It was a big week for us. We had never been in this position but we got used to it, got ready and we won.”
Colletti and fellow tailback Trey Gretzinger both ran for over 100 yards and both scored a pair of touchdowns. Colletti’s 25-yard field goal late in the first quarter put Palisades up 3-0. Quarterback Ethan Brader keyed the 57-yard drive when he bootlegged and found tight end Andrew Nickles for a 26-yard completion on 4th and seven.
Gretzinger’s 27-yard scissors play touchdown made the game 9-0 with 1:11 elapsed in the second quarter. The drive was set up by the Pirate defense forcing a second straight three-and-out.
“We try to fly around,” said Newton, who had six tackles. “We want to be the most physical team on the field. That’s what we did.”
“We dominated the O-line completely,” said defensive lineman Michael Parciak, who had 3 ½ tackles for loss or no gain. “We put in the work in the offseason. I don’t know if anyone in the League works harder than us. We got there quick and handled business.”
The Palisades defense’s only blemish came with 2:24 left in the half. Saucon Valley (6-4) dual-threat quarterback Alstan Wolfe scored on a two-yard run. But Palisades swatted away the point after attempt, Matt McGrath returned the kickoff to the Panther-49 and Brader promptly hit Colletti on a touchdown bomb. Palisades led 16-6 at halftime.
“The bomb right after they scored was big,” said Colletti. “Their spirits were up so it’s always nice to score right after they score. It was a check play. Ethan saw the one-on-one coverage and knew that we could beat them deep.”
Colletti struck again with a 50-yard touchdown scamper on Palisades’ second play of the second half. “There was a hole and Wolfe, who is a great safety, came down to make the play,” Colletti recalled. “I was able to jump cut right and go out left and I was open. Pat Lodwig laid a nice block down the field.”
Colletti’s 20-yard field goal made the game 26-6. Gretzinger’s 23-yard touchdown dash with 9:46 left in the game capped the scoring.
“We got off to a little slow start but we tried to pound the ball,” offered Newton, who carried four times for 23 yards. “That’s our way of playing football.” Gretzinger’s 143 yards on 14 carries paced Palisades. Colletti added 168 yards on 18 touches.
Brader efficiently completed five of eight passes for 120 yards. “We threw on purpose the last few weeks to work at it,” Ronalds said. “The O line had some protection issues that they’ve worked hard on. Ethan and the receivers have worked hard making a connection.”
On the other side of the ball, a Panther team that averaged over 300 rushing yards a game was limited to just 109.
“From the get go, we decided we were going to give everything,” Parciak stated.
Wolfe’s 51 yards on 16 carries led the Panthers. He is closing in on throwing for 1,000 yards to match the 1,000+ he already has on the ground.
If there was just one downside to the celebration at Rohrer Stadium, it was the absence of Tom Poynton. The beloved Palisades assistant coach unexpectedly passed away in the summer of 2016, but references to “TP” saturated the field.
“We dedicated this whole season to him. That man gave everything to this team,” Parciak concluded. “I’m so happy. My senior year, I got to give it to him and I couldn’t be happier.”
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