Nazareth edges Trojans in title game
Five weeks into the season, Parkland had a 2-2 record and the thought of a return to the District 11 Class 6A championship game seemingly was a distant one.
Injuries to Nick Dawkins and Dante Medlar, among others, played a major role in the Trojans’ mediocre start.
Eight weeks later, Parkland was one play away from collecting its seventh district title in the last eight years. Instead, the Trojans fell to Nazareth, 22-21, in overtime on one of the most memorable plays in Lehigh Valley football history.
Due to what is now referred to as “The Nazareth Special” – named after the Philadelphia Eagles’ trick play in their Super Bowl victory – the Blue Eagles shockingly ended the Trojans night in arguably one of the finest district championship games of all time.
Running back Braden Mehlig took a direct snap, flipped the ball to wide receiver Nathan Stefanik, who rolled out and found Jaiden Cabrera in the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion and the victory.
Parkland’s runaway momentum over the past two months suddenly came to a screeching halt.
Head coach Tim Moncman watched his team’s early command eventually dissipate away into the cold, still air.
The Trojans pieced together an impressive nine-play, 60-yard drive to open the game after Nick Johnston returned the opening kickoff 33 yards. Johnston left the game in third quarter with an injury and didn’t return.
Parkland dominated most of the opening quarter and had the opportunity to take a 21-7 lead, but a delay of game and unsportsmanlike misconduct penalties negated a possible score from the Nazareth 20-yard line.
“It was an outstanding football game and both teams battled,” said Trojan head coach Tim Moncman. “We sort of sputtered in the second half on offense, and I thought our defense played well throughout the night.
“We just didn’t do enough on offense. We were right there and we didn’t make the plays when we had to. We shot ourselves in the foot. If we go up 21-7, then it’s a different story.”
Parkland running back Isaiah Rico finished with 211 yards on 33 carries, gaining 153 of them in the opening half in which he broke free on a 48-yard gallop that gave Parkland its 14-7 advantage.
After halftime, the Trojans managed just 59 yards and committed two costly turnovers that led to Nazareth scores. Parkland also committed and uncharacteristic 12 penalties
“We didn’t throw the ball very well in the second half and they packed the box,” said Moncman. “We had to throw to win, and we just didn’t make enough plays to win.”
Offensive tackle and Penn State recruit Dawkins, one of 27 seniors leaving the program, won’t soon forget his teammates.
“A lot of people take about the Xs and Os that happen when we were 2-2,” said Dawkins. “But we unified and became brothers. That’s when we started winning games. That’s all we can ask for. It’s rough now, but we’ll have better things ahead.”
Moncman kept the faith despite two straight losses early in the season, the latter a 44-7 thrashing by Bethlehem Catholic.
“We came a long way from 2-2,” said Moncman. “I enjoyed these kids as much as any group. They are a special group. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but that’s football.”