After dropping its first two Liberty Division games, it looked like the Bethlehem football team's chances of making the Section II, Class AA playoffs were remote.
But after beating Colonie 31-14 in last Saturday's regular season finale, the Eagles earned the No. 3 seed out of the Liberty Division and a trip to Empire Division No. 2 seed Ballston Spa for Friday's quarterfinal playoff game.
I thought it would have been pretty far fetched walking off the field in Schenectady [following a 48-13 loss in Week 4], said Bethlehem coach Rick Leach. "But the kids have been good at leaving things behind after a loss."
The momentum swung in Bethlehem's direction late in the second quarter when Trey Silver intercepted a pass. The Eagles (2-3 division, 3-4 overall) got deep enough into Garnet Raider territory to give Jon Martin a shot at a 41-yard field goal. Martin's kick sailed through the uprights to put Bethlehem ahead 17-14 at halftime.
The Eagles then dominated the second half. They got touchdown runs from Mike Strohecker and Devin Stampley to build a 17-point lead, and the defense did the rest to secure the victory.
"Our defense played really well, and the drive at the end of the first half was really important," said Leach. "That and coming out and scoring right away in the third quarter really put us in a great position."
Tailback Casiem Maxwell led Bethlehem's ground game with 162 yards and a touchdown. Strohecker contributed 92 yards, and Stampley added 75 rushing yards.
Bethlehem will try to use its ground game to counter Ballston Spa's option-based offense in Friday's quarterfinal game. The Scotties (4-1, 6-1) took the Eagles out of their element with a 21-point first quarter in their 61-13 victory over Bethlehem in Week 2.
"We have to control the ball " keep our offense on the field, and keep their good quarterback [Mark Seager] off the field," said Leach.