Zephs D-11 5A champs!
Southern Lehigh may have owned the more potent running game on paper, but Whitehall used their own punishing ground attack to win their second straight distinct title.
On a night when passing the ball was a bit precarious at times because of the wind and cold, the Zephyrs turned to Braxton Marrero to help them defeat the Spartans who boasted perhaps the best running attack in the Colonial League. The senior bulled his way for 151 yards as he and quarterback Ethan Parvel, who was equally impressive running the ball, helped the Zephs defeat the Trojans 34-17 for the District XI 5A championship.
Southern Lehigh’s trio of Logan Edmond, Luke Strauss and Michael Sisselberger had rushed for close to 2,100 yards this year, but it was Marrero and Parvel who put their stamp on the game with their legs as the two combined for 240 yards and three touchdowns to help put the Zephyrs into the 5A D-11 sub-regional game against District 2 champ Wyoming Valley West this Friday.
Marrero, who was also an important cog in their victory in last year’s championship, saw firsthand how Strauss was able to churn through their defense for over 150 yards. While he didn’t want to make it a mano a mano battle with Strauss who has twice eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark as a runner, he did want to make his own statement in the game.
“I don’t want to say that I take it personally, but it was more of those things where I wanted to see who was better in the backfield, and I feel like we came out on top,” said Marrero who’s now rushed for 1,025 yards on the season.
Marrero also knew that they were going to get Southern Lehigh’s best shot as the Spartans were determined to avenge last year’s loss.
“We spoke all week about how they were going to definitely come out and play as hard as they have all year,” said Marrero. “We knew that they were a good team coming into the game, and we just had to focus and play our game.”
For Marrero, their second championship was just as sweet as the first one. During the game the senior continually dragged defenders, fighting for every inch. He also broke off a huge run, racing 46 yards for the go-ahead score that set the stage for the win. He was running with purpose, making sure he and his teammates were the ones hoisting the championship trophy.
“At the end of the day, we were just chasing that gold,” said Marrero. “That was the only thing I was worried about at the end of the day.”
In a game where Parvel only attempted nine passes, the junior took advantage of the running lanes provided by his stout offensive line. After a sluggish first few possessions where they couldn’t convert on third down, Parvel drove them down the field late in the first quarter, taking the ball up the gut for a big 36-yard gain that got them into the red zone. As he dropped back to pass, Parvel surveyed the field, and finding nothing he liked, pulled it down and raced 15 yards to the pylon for the score. That TD helped shift the momentum back onto the Zephs who were trailing 3-0 after Alex Milios’ 32-yard field goal midway through the first quarter.
“I just made the play,” said Parvel. “The linemen gave me a lot of time and I made my reads, and I just tried to make a play with my feet.”
That was the first of four touchdowns orchestrated by Parvel who also connected with Allen Negrete in the third quarter. His other scoring pass was a completion to Dez Boykin who reversed his field once he caught the screen pass and ran down the near sideline for a 41-yard score. That was Boykin’s only catch the whole game, but the reception preserved his consecutive touchdown streak which now stands at 18.
Parvel, who’s also experienced both championships, said that the ability to help achieve this moment with his teammates was the result of long hours and dedication.
“We put a lot of hard work in, and we talked about all week about how it was going to be for putting a gold medal around our neck,” said Parvel.
While the offense usually gets the lion’s share of ink in most write-ups following a win, the Zephyr defense played an enormous part in the win. Linebacker Joshua Novak continued to wreak havoc, while lineman Jacob Hudak demonstrated his hustle by running down Edmond well past the line of scrimmage, and Shavar Hussett’s tackles in the open field, all helped Whitehall come out victorious. Additionally, Julio Diaz’ batted ball and Boykin’s sack during a drive deep in their territory kept the Spartans from scoring, while Roberto Rivera Colon’s pass breakup on fourth down with a little under five minutes left in the game, sealed the win for Whitehall.
“I thought our defense payed really good tonight,” said head coach Brian Gilbert. “I was really proud of them. Our defense really took pride tonight and made sure they tried to stop Strauss, Sisselberger, and all their weapons, and we got to the quarterback, so we’re happy about that.”
Gilbert said that they had to stay patient because that big play wasn’t coming early in the game. Once they reeled off 21 unanswered points, he felt his offense had settled in.
Gilbert also said that it’s a great feeling being champs again, especially since they defeated a really good football team.
“I’m proud of our guys; we fought hard,” said Gilbert.
They’ll now prepare for WVW. Marrero said that while they may be unfamiliar with their opponent, their mindset remains the same.
“It’s the same thing every week, we’re going to go in focused and hope to come out on top at the end of the day,” said Marrero.