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Pirates Sail Away With Fourth Straight Win

Written by: on Friday, October 14th, 2016. Follow Don Leypoldt on Twitter.


To Run in the October 20th Bucks County Herald

donweek72016The second quarter held first importance for Palisades on their Friday Night Homecoming.

The Pirates (6-2) erupted for 34 points in that quarter- scoring 14 in a 16 second span- as they shut down Bangor 34-7.

“Our line started going. We sped up the offense and got on a roll,” said Matt McGrath, Palisades’ leading receiver this Fall.

Jared Colletti’s 20-yard punt return set up a 5 play, 51-yard drive. The drive was capped when Pirate quarterback Ethan Brader hit McGrath on a slant for a 30-yard touchdown with just 12 seconds elapsed in the second quarter.

“I caught it, looked up and saw there was one guy to beat,” McGrath said. “I found the end zone. It got us going from the first quarter.” McGrath had three catches for 42 yards.

Brader pounced on a loose ball from an errant jet sweep on Bangor’s next play from scrimmage. On first down, Trey Gretzinger scampered to the outside for a 23-yard touchdown run.

16 seconds. 14 Pirate points.

“We were starting out slow in the first quarter,” said Gretzinger, “and once our offensive line started picking it up, noticed holes opening up. Once I saw that, I knew I could punch it in. I trusted them on the outside blocks.”

Colletti made the score 21-0 halfway through the period with a 20-yard pick six.

“I like to help out the team however I can,” said Colletti, who went over 1,000 rushing and receiving yards on the season. Colletti also kicks.

“That was my first pick this year,” he continued. “I’ve been looking for one all year.”

The Pirate defense stopped Bangor on downs and the Pirate offense marched 61 yards in eight plays. Colletti scored from the 5, giving Palisades a 27-0 lead with 1:14 remaining in the half.

“There was a minute to go and (Bangor) had a pretty good return on the kickoff before,” said Palisades coach Kevin Ronalds. “We didn’t want any cheap ones so we put it on the ground.” But the squib kickoff bounced off of a Bangor upman and was recovered by Pirate Nathan Haubert.

Brader fired three quick completions and Gretzinger pounded into the end zone from the 4. A scoreless game at the end of the first quarter morphed into a 34-0 Pirate rout at halftime.

Saivaughn Vass scored on a 19-yard run late in the third quarter to account for Bangor’s (2-6) points. Vass led all rushers with 188 yards on 30 carries.

But Palisades held Bangor to just 23 yards on their other 18 plays. “Since the beginning of the season, we’ve really stressed becoming better as a linebacker corps,” said linebacker Pat Lodwig, who killed a first half Bangor drive with a third down tackle for loss. “It’s about playing as a whole and as a unit. I think we really came together tonight. Our coaching staff is great defensively. Coach Ronalds put us in an excellent position to win.”

Bangor also had no punt return yards as Pirate Sam Hitchon helped his team with a 34-yard net average on five punts.

Friday marked the fourth straight game where Palisades scored at least 34 points. Not coincidentally, it also marked their fourth straight win.

“Everyone is working together,” observed Colletti, who ran for 105 yards on 13 carries. “Holes are opening up. Running backs are hitting the holes. The passing game is opening up as well and we’re traveling down the field.”

“Our O-line is starting to mature,” Ronalds agreed. “It also helped that we started throwing the ball better.”

The 2016 Pirates have almost equaled their full year 2015 passing yardage, and on 18 fewer attempts. Brader completed 7 of 11 passes for 79 yards.

“It wasn’t until week four where we started throwing the ball well,” Ronalds pointed out. “Ever since then, we’ve been very confident in doing it.”

They will need a balanced offense. Palisades closes with Pen Argyl and Saucon Valley, who have a combined 12-3 record. Yet a win would put Palisades in excellent position to cement their first home playoff game since 2007.

“We won tonight but the next two weeks are big games- not to look ahead,” Colletti concluded. “We need to work week by week to get better and hopefully get some wins.”

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