Zephs top Becahi
The Federal government may have shut down last week, but the Golden Hawks defense couldn't pull the same trick on the Zephyr offense with quarterback Jeff Charles presiding over the 48-27 victory last Friday.
The Zephs relied on a crisp passing attack that rolled up 194 yards, and then supplemented that aerial assault with 254 yards on the ground to pull away in the second half for their fifth win of the season.
The game began with the two Lehigh Valley Conference teams trading touchdowns, with Charles connecting with wide receiver Conor Sullivan for a 10-yard TD strike, then found Nick Nejad for a 56-yard score later in the first quarter.
Antwon Keenan provided two first quarter scores for the Hawks, finding pay dirt with a 86-yard kickoff return, followed by a 4-yard TD plunge. They also got a TD from Michael McDaniel in the second quarter on a 2-yard run.
The Zephs answered with two Barkley TD runs, the final one with just 0:06 left in the half. That score was one of three momentum changers that changed the complexion of the game, transforming a tight contest into a convincing Zephyr win.
Getting that last score after Bethlehem Catholic tied the game was a turning point for the Zephs.
"That was a great two-minute drive that we put together," said head coach Brian Gilbert. Jeff Charles threw some great passes, and we had our playmakers make plays, and our offensive line did a good job. All those three things came together on that two-minute drive."
Meanwhile, Charles kept the offense rolling, finishing the first half 12-16 for 194 yards and two touchdowns. He was also proficient on third down, converting 6-11 attempts.
"Before the game, coach Gilbert told me that most likely they were going to key on Saquon Barkley, Ryan Bonshak and Jake Buskirk on then run, so we got to come out early and pass the ball, which is what happened," said Charles. "Then we started running and they stopped us a little, and we started to pass the ball and it was productive, and it opened up our run game."
Charles' ability to find his receivers for big gains, specifically Sullivan who caught eight passes for 90 yards and a score, laid the groundwork for the rest of the game.
"He had some confidence in the pocket throwing the ball, and Conor Sullivan made some great catches," said Gilbert. "Those two did a great job working together."
In the score before the half, Charles engineered a flawless two-minute drill that covered 53 yards in 11 plays, with Barkley sliding through the right side for the score. Their ability to wrest the momentum from the Hawks set the stage for the big second half.
"That was huge," said Charles. "The one thing we didn't do against Parkland, was that we didn't take the momentum back right away. That's what we did today and it shows on the scoreboard."
Another momentum shifting moment came on a fourth-and-one midway through the third quarter. The Hawks had the ball at the Zephyrs 24-yard line, and Hawks quarterback Julian Spigner tried to gain the edge. But cornerback Jake Rex and linebacker Jacob Kerchner made sure he didn't extend the drive.
"I was just running full speed and hitting him with all I had," said Kerchner. "Me and Jake Rex made a great play. If they would have scored, that would have meant huge momentum for them."
Kerchner was part of a swarming Zephyr defense that stiffened in the second half. While they had trouble harnessing Golden Hawk quarterback Julian Spigner (234 yards of total offense) in the first half, but they forced Becahi to punt five times in the final 24 minutes.
Safety Bonshak was also a demon on defense, finishing with 11 tackles, two for losses. Buskirk was another member of the maroon swarm, getting nine tackles, including one for a loss.
In addition to his big fourth down stop, Kerchner also had a sack for a 10-yard loss, both in the second half.
"We stressed that we needed to fly to the ball more, and know our assignments better," said Kerchner. "I felt like that in first half, we were kind of not playing our mentality of football. When we play to our type of football, we're a very good defense, and that's how we came out in the second half with that mentality."
Kerchner characterizes that as "Zephyr Tough Football," an attitude they re-established in the second half.
The final Zephyr moment that deflated the Hawks hope was the blocked punt with time winding down in the third quarter. Jarred Mittl broke through the line with Mustafa Mitchell scooping up the ball and rumbling 20 yards for the score.
"It was something we preach all the time, getting to the punter," said Gilbert. "That play and the big fourth down play, that was all attitude, coming up and making plays."
Charles said that getting back into the win column was another step in a season that will most likely have them see Parkland again somewhere down the line.
"We'll see them in districts," said Charles. "That will be a good game. I'm very excited about that.
"It was a huge game to come back from a loss. We practiced hard all week, and forget about the loss to Parkland. We still have a half of a season left to play."
Gilbert said that their bounce back win was at the hands of a team that runs a similar offense to the Trojans.
"The difference was that our guys were able to make some plays in the second half," said Gilbert. "The first half they wore us down a little bit. The difference was second half adjustments, specifically attitude adjustments."
Bonshak finished the game with 120 yards rushing, his longest a 57-yard burst. Additionally, Barkley ran for 90 yards. Darius Young also contributed to the running attack, finishing with 30 yards, including a 29-yard TD run.