Hornets hang on to beat Parkland
The Emmaus High School Marching Band was performing the 1982 Michael Jackson classic “Thriller” as the Parkland Trojans were on what proved to be their final offensive drive last Friday night. It was an apt musical selection, as this year’s edition of the Battle of Cedar Crest Boulevard was certainly a thriller.
Down four points with two minutes remaining, Trojan quarterback Tanner Lewis had his team on the move for the go-ahead and possible winning touchdown.
But the Green Hornet defense ended the thriller in a Vincent Price-like nightmare. In the final minute, Emmaus’ Timmy Higgins knifed through the Trojan offensive line to hammer Lewis. The blow dislodged the ball from Lewis, and the Hornets’ Adam Heiserman fell on it at his team’s 18-yard line. Moments later, Emmaus converted a fourth-down play and then ran out the remainder of the clock, resulting in a 35-31 win in the season’s final regular season game.
The win raised Emmaus’ record to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the EPC and was their second consecutive win.
The Green Hornets enter the District 11 Class 6A playoffs as the second seed. They will host a quarterfinal playoff at 7 p.m. on Nov. 2 against seventh-seeded Nazareth at East Penn School District Stadium.
The Green Hornets have lived dangerously in each of the final three regular season games. After outplaying Freedom in week eight, they came unglued in the last 90 seconds to lose 32-31 in overtime.
Then in the season’s next week against Bethlehem Catholic, they pulled out a 50-49 win in spite of surrendering more than 600 yards in offense and trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Their win over Parkland was just as tight.
After Emmaus broke on top with a Sone Ntoh touchdown run early, Parkland quickly responded, as Lewis sprinted for a 66-yard touchdown run in the first quarter for a 7-7 tie. The Trojans then went ahead as Christian Suriel returned a fumble four yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
After Emmaus followed up with a touchdown pass from quarterback Ethan Parvel to wide receiver Deonte Castro for 28 yards to tie it at 14-14, Parkland took the lead after another fumble recovery set up a field goal to give Parkland a 17-14 lead. However, Emmaus went on another touchdown drive and entered halftime with a 21-17 advantage.
Two primary storylines developed throughout the game. One was that Parkland’s defense proved unable to control Parvel, who completed 14 of 20 tosses for 181 yards and two touchdowns on the night. He also gained modest but consistent yardage as a runner, finishing with 46 yards on 13 carries.
“No question, he’s a big-time player,” Fairclough said of Parvel. “He also gives us a sense of confidence.”
Second was Parkland’s defense had no answer for the freight truck known as Ntoh, who bludgeoned them for 114 yards on 13 carries and three touchdowns. What made this more disheartening for the Trojans was Emmaus was without elusive running back Lubens Myers, who was unavailable due to injury. Ntoh punished Trojan defenders by churning his strong legs on almost every one of his 13 carries for consistent gains.
Ntoh understood he had to step up.
“Nothing was really said, he just knew he had to carry the load,” Fairclough said. Ntoh also had a “statement” type of game after “not having the type of season he would have liked” due to an early-season injury.
“He’s a competitor,” Fairclough added.
However Parkland’s rushing attack was also prodigious.
Trojan offensive linemen generally blocked well all night, trapping, pulling and ramming forward effectively. Parkland amassed 245 rushing yards.
Angel Santos had two touchdown runs - two and five yards - in the second half. Both scores gave Parkland leads. Lewis also acquired 89 yards running.
Still, Fairclough thought his defense improved compared to the Bethlehem Catholic game. It also made big plays down the stretch.
“I thought we played with a lot better energy and effort,” he said. “We still missed a bunch of tackles and we still have a few things to work on.”
Emmaus won the game on a Parvel to Jameel Sanders 36-yard touchdown pass with 2:52 left in the fourth quarter. Sanders, who played a consistent game, had three catches for 53 yards for Emmaus, while Castro caught six passes for 79 yards.
All told, Emmaus had 380 yards of offense, compared to 310 yards for Parkland. The Hornets also registered 21 first downs, compared to Parkland’s 15 in a thrilling Emmaus win.