Freedom hands Hornets first defeat of the season
Not many people expected last Friday night's football game between Emmaus and Freedom at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium to unfold the way it did.
The Hornets entered the game with consecutive dominating efforts in conference play with victories over Bethlehem Catholic and Central Catholic in the previous two weeks.
But the Patriots didn't let any of that outside noise affect their play.
After a 10-point game at halftime, the Patriots reeled off 28 unanswered points in the second half en route to an unexpected 44-12 victory.
"They hit harder than the previous teams that we played on defense," said Bottiglieri. "They were aggressive on offense and we didn't respond."
Freedom running back Christian Negron connected on two first quarter touchdown runs to give the Patriots a 13-0 lead after the first 12 minutes. After a 26-yard score with 2:04 to play in the quarter, Negron took the team's next offensive play from scrimmage for a 49-yard scamper after a Hornet three-and-out. He took a carry up the middle and made a quick juke to the right before finding the end zone just 1:38 after his first score.
"We changed our defensive scheme a little bit and we settled down," said Bottiglieri after Freedom's first two scores. "It was 16 for the longest time. And then we held them for the rest of the half."
Emmaus (3-1, 2-1 LVC) regained a little bit of momentum just before halftime as the Hornets capped off an eight-play drive with a touchdown. Senior quarterback Andrew Kerson found senior wide receiver Jacob Maehrer, who reeled in a one-handed grab while falling to the ground in the corner of the end zone.
Down 16-6 heading into the break, the Hornets sought to build off their late first half drive as they were set to receive the opening kickoff of the second half.
"We went in the locker room and the kids felt - OK we're going to come out and get the ball in the second half and do something with it and we'll be right back in the game," said Bottiglieri. "And we didn't do that."
A costly fumble by sophomore running back Wyllim Miller on that return gave the ball right back to the Patriots (2-2, 2-1). And seven plays later, Patriot quarterback Brian Uliana ran in for a one-yard touchdown that began a string of touchdowns scored on four consecutive drives.
Uliana added two touchdown passes in the third quarter, which was followed up by Negron's third rushing score with 3:47 to play in the quarter that essentially put away the Hornets.
"It was a killer," said Bottiglieri. "You make some adjustments at halftime and you come out and you're saying - OK we're going to get the ball and we're going to take it down and close the gap. And we fumbled."
After holding their previous three opponents to just seven combined points on the season, the Patriots took advantage of four Hornet turnovers that led to 24 points.
"That was a good team [and] a physical team, and we didn't respond," said Bottiglieri. "We've got to learn how to respond. We can't turn the ball over. That's what was really, really disheartening - turning the ball over."
Junior wide receiver Thomas Bisko scored on a late 35-yard touchdown run. Kerson finished the game 8-for-17 with 72 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The Hornets will look to rebound after their first loss of the season, but they'll have a tough test against undefeated Easton (4-0, 3-0) on Friday night.