The Bethlehem football team still has a chance to make the Section II, class AA playoffs.
With Thursday's 16-13 Empire Division victory over Saratoga Springs, the Eagles (1-3) moved a game closer to the fourth-place Blue Streaks (2-2) and gave them a tiebreaker should an end-of-season deadlock occur.
For us to get a win like that against Saratoga, it's a confidence boost, said Bethlehem coach Ron Smith. "We've gotten better every week, but we still have to win every week."
The turning point of the game " and perhaps Bethlehem's season " came on the fourth play from scrimmage. Facing fourth down and three near midfield, Saratoga elected to go for the first down rather than punt. That turned out to be a mistake, as the Eagles stuffed the Blue Streaks' attempt and took over inside Saratoga territory.
"I think our kids took it as a slap in the face," said Smith of Saratoga's decision.
Once the Eagles had the ball, it didn't take long for them to drive into the end zone. Sean Murphy capped the series with a 1-yard touchdown run, and Sam Smith added the extra point to put Bethlehem ahead 7-0.
"(The defensive stop) gave us some energy to feed off of," said coach Smith.
Saratoga got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when Tony DeLoatch plowed his way into the end zone from four yards out, but Bethlehem blocked Jimmy Minogue's extra point attempt to hold on to a 7-6 lead. Casiem Maxwell then broke free for a 58-yard touchdown run to re-establish the Eagles seven-point advantage. It was the longest run of the night for Maxwell, a sophomore tailback.
"We're really excited about him because he's a sophomore, and he's getting better every week," said Smith.
Bethlehem extended its lead to 16-6 two seconds before halftime when Sam Smith drilled a 25-yard field goal. That proved to be the winning points, as Saratoga shut out the Eagles in the second half, but could only manage a Minogue 47-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.