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Defense keys Bethlehem's Empire Division win against Ballston Spa

The Bethlehem football team still has a shot at earning a share of second place in the Empire Division.

Sean Murphy rushed for two first quarter touchdowns, and Bethlehem's defense made several key stops to help the Eagles edge Ballston Spa 14-12 in last Friday's game.

We hadn't put four quarters together, said Bethlehem coach Ron Smith. "Tonight, we put four quarters together."

The win moves Bethlehem (3-2 division, 3-3 overall) into a third-place tie with Ballston Spa (3-2, 4-2), one game behind second-place Shenendehowa (4-1, 4-2). Ballston Spa plays Shen Friday, while Bethlehem hosts Christian Brothers Academy (1-4, 1-5).

The Eagles wouldn't be in this position without their defense, though. They stopped Ballston Spa quarterback Mark Seager on a two-point conversion attempt after the Scotties scored a touchdown in the third quarter to close the deficit to 14-12. Then, they denied Ballston Spa a touchdown late in the fourth quarter when Casiem Maxwell batted a Seager pass to teammate Teddy Abriel for the game-clinching interception.

"I'm so proud of our coaches on the defensive side," said Smith. "We've been beaten up on that side of the ball."

Bethlehem took a 7-0 lead on its first series. A pass interference call against Ballston Spa set up the Eagles deep inside the Scotties' territory. Several plays later, Murphy plowed his way into the end zone from one yard out to get Bethlehem on the scoreboard.

Ballston Spa took the momentum back quickly. Josh Fabian returned the ensuing kickoff inside Bethlehem's 25-yard line. Two plays later, Seager called his own number, swept left, and then changed direction and went right to complete a 20-yard touchdown run.

The extra point turned into an adventure for Ballston Spa, though. A false start before the kick pushed the Scotties back five yards. That was enough to cause Shane LaChance's second attempt to fall short of the uprights, which left Bethlehem with a 7-6 lead.

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