Salisbury Impresses in Palisades’ Home Opener
The secondary was the primary issue.
In the season opener, Southern Lehigh was able to pass early on Palisades; the big lead the Spartans staked resulted in a 42-21 win over the Pirates.
But the Pirates showed spunk and played an extremely competitive second half.
For the second straight week, Palisades had to face an elite passing game. Salisbury quarterback, 6’6” Tevon Weber, is the incumbent District 11 2A javelin champion. He would test the Pirates’ secondary early and often.
“We knew we had to work on our passing game, with letting up so many yards last week,” said Palisades senior linebacker Tyler Marsh. “We had a game plan and we stuck to it but obviously they got the best of us this week.” Marsh had two tackles for loss and a pass break up.
And in their home opener, Palisades (0-2) fell 41-2 to Salisbury (1-1) in a game where the defense played better than the score indicated. Salisbury’s five scoring drives all started no deeper than midfield. A sixth touchdown came on special teams.
“I thought we were holding up pretty well. The whole first half seemed to be played within our 20 yard line, and they only had 14 points,” reminded Palisades coach Kevin Ronalds. “We had a couple of good stops and they couldn’t run on us. I wasn’t down on how we played defensively in the first half.
“The third quarter, we kind of came unglued. We are a lot better football team than what we showed tonight,” he continued. “I have to take blame myself and we all have to do things better.”
Salisbury cornerback CJ Wittman’s started the scoring when he returned a first quarter interception to the Pirate 14. One play later, Weber hit running back Devin Irwin over the middle for a touchdown, and the game’s first points.
The Pirates answered the touchdown with two first downs. But one play after Salisbury recovered a fumbled punt snap, Weber connected with wide out Mason Donaldson down the left sideline for a 19 yard score.
Palisades got their first points when the defense forced a three-and-out. An errant punt snap went over Donaldson’s head into the end zone for a safety with 9:00 left in the second.
Four times in the first half, Salisbury racked up a critical tackle for loss to stall or end a Pirate drive. But the Pirate engine showed signs of life throughout the first half. With less than a minute left, a Matt McGrath 21 yard punt return and a personal foul gave Palisades starting field position at the Salisbury 26. Wide receiver Blake Cassalia’s 16 yard reception got the ball as deep as the 10 but Palisades closed the half with a missed field goal.
The play of McGrath, and fellow sophomore running back Pat Lodwig, was a bright spot for Palisades. McGrath carried nine times for 27 tough yards. Last week, Lodwig lugged 63 yards on nine carries against Southern Lehigh.
They embody a young, but talented, Pirates’ ballclub. “We’ve got more than two,” Ronalds replied. “Pat goes 150 miles an hour all of the time- which is good and bad. Matt is more patient, but then Pat has all of the straight away speed. They are a little bit different and they give us some different looks to throw at people.”
Salisbury opened the second half with a bang: Irwin caught the kickoff over his shoulder and took it 96 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown to make the game 20-2. Wilson hit tight end and fellow 78 incher Kyle Hartzell on a one yard, fourth down slant half way through the third to extend the Falcon lead to 27-2.
At that point, Palisades put together their best drive of the night- marching 36 yards in six plays before Salisbury’s Eric Frankenfield pounced on a fumble at midfield. Weber capped the drive by tossing a 23 yard scoring strike over the middle to Irwin.
And the Irwin show was just beginning. He picked off a pass and took a sweep 41 yards to the one, and swept into the end zone on the next play with 32 seconds in the quarter. Donaldson’s booming PAT gave Salisbury a 41-2 lead; Donaldson also booted five touchbacks on kickoffs, forcing Palisades to start from deep in their own territory for most of the game.
But Palisades punter Marsh also put the “special” in special teams. He nailed three punts of 35 yards or more, and pinned a fourth punt inside the Salisbury 20.
“This is my first year punting,” Marsh said. “One practice, I sent a couple down and Coach liked it. That’s how I became a punter.”
Irwin gained 112 yards on his five catches or runs. Weber was held to just 114 yards passing on 29 attempts.
The Pirates gained about half of the 314 total yards that they hung on Southern Lehigh in a very balanced attack during their opener. Many of the young Pirates were able to get game reps tonight.
“That it all matters and you have to do things right,” replied Ronalds when asked what his team would take away from tonight. “Young kids played better last week. This week, a lot of the technique and drills that we do went out the window. I promised them right here that we are going to take care of that this week.”
But as Ronalds reminded his team in the post-game huddle, “We’re still a good football team. And we’re going to clean this up.”
Note: Palisades football is conducting a food drive at all home games. Please bring canned goods if you attend a Pirate match.
Don Leypoldt’s book Keystones and Wishbones: Faith, Values and Football in the Delaware Valley is now available on Amazon! The book features interviews with over a dozen NFL veterans, all with Delaware Valley ties. Click here to order:
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