UNION TWP. — Sure, it would have been easy for Northwest players to let their heads drop.
Lake-Lehman got a huge play when Josh Durling blocked a punt, picked up the ball and returned it 24 yards for the score, giving the Knights a one-point lead with 10 minutes left.
The Rangers and quarterback David Piestrak had other plans.
Showing the poise of an upperclassmen, the sophomore responded after the block. He led the Rangers on a 78-yard drive – capped off by a 9-yard score to give Northwest the lead. The team punched in two more touchdowns in the final five minutes in a 33-13 victory Friday night.
The victory improves Northwest to 1-1, while it was the first loss of 2016 for Lehman.
“We have a lot of character kids,” Northwest coach Lon Hazlet said. “We have a lot of kids that come from good families and strong homes. They have been raised right, and I’m blessed to coach these boys. We challenged them to answer, and that’s what we did.”
In the past, opponents would never bounce back when Lehman made a huge play like a blocked kick taken back for the score. The momentum swing would be too much to overcome.
But maybe that’s the special characteristic Hazlet was talking about. That, or they are still so young that they don’t understand what happened in the past.
Piestrak took over that short five-play series that began on the own 22.
As it was, five straight runs were called. Junior tailback Jake Anderson gained 33 yards on the first two carries. Piestrak used his legs to churn out the final 45 yards of the series.
“We have really been challenging this group to mature and play together,” Hazlet said. “They did that on the drive. We think we have a good ball club, but we just need to mature because they are young.
“We told the boys that we had to answer. And they did. I’m proud of them. Lake-Lehman has a tough, physical team.”
Anderson’s 7-yard run, followed by a 38-yard score by Beau Getz with time ticking down capped off 21 unanswered points.
Really, though, the heroes were the Rangers’ linemen.
The big boys in the trenches on offense opened up enough holes that Piestrak, Anderson and Getz rumbled for 288 yards.
The defense wasn’t too bad, either, holding a powerful Lehman rushing attack to just one touchdown and a total of 112 yards of offense.
Lehman’s lone offensive score came early in the first quarter. Following a Charlie Kuschke interception return back to the Rangers 23, the Knights needed just four plays as Trey Borger rumbled for a 13-yard score and a 6-0 lead three minutes into the contest.
“We knew that Lehman had a great team, and we worked really hard at practice,” Rangers lineman Carl Graziano said. “We lost to really good team last week in North Penn. It was the same way with Lehman because they were coming off a strong 2015 season.
“Holding them to just one offensive touchdown shows that the hard work we’ve been putting in during practice is starting to pay off.”
Piestrak and Anderson each finished with nearly 100 yards on the ground and two scores a piece. Lehman’s Borger had a team-high 34 yards rushing.
Northwest 33, Lake-Lehman 13
LL — Trey Borger 13 run (kick failed), 9:45
NW — David Piestrak 1 run (kick failed), 3:37
NW — Jake Anderson 3 run (kick failed), 0:02
LL — Josh Durling 24-yard blocked punt return (Ian Dawsey kick), 10:13
NW — Piestrak 9 run (Tyler Stevens pass from Piestrak), 8:32
NW — Anderson 7 run (pass failed), 4:41
NW — Beau Getz 38 run (Jack Wessler kick), 2:49
Team Statistics `LL`NW
First Downs `12`10
Rushes-Yards `36-93 `44-239
Passing Yards `19`49
Total Yards `112`288
Sacked-Yards Lost `2-3`3-15
RUSHING — LL, Trey Borger 15-34, Matt Kurtz 6-27, Zack Kojadinovich 2-23, Frank Kutz 3-20, Nate O’Donnell 1-1, Team 1-(minus-3), Vincenzo Ferrari 5-(minus-4), Charlie Kuschke 3-(minus-5). NW, David Piestrak 19-98, Jake Anderson 21-95, Beau Getz 4-46.
PASSING — LL, Ferrari 3-12-2-19 yards. NW, Brandon Hardiman 1-2-0-31, Piestrak 3-12-1-18, Team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — LL, Kuschke 2-12, Jake Tomolonis 1-7. NW, Adam Bukavich 1-31, Hardiman 1-11, Ezra Judge 1-6, Austin Ford 1-1.
INTERCEPTIONS — LL, Kuschke; NW, Judge, Anderson.
MISSED FGs — None.