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District 11 6A football: Nazareth shocks Parkland in dramatic instant classic

Nazareth players celebrate the win over Parkland in the District 11 Class 6A championship game Friday at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)
David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ
Nazareth players celebrate the win over Parkland in the District 11 Class 6A championship game Friday at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

When Nazareth beat Parkland 22-21 for the 2019 District 11 6A football title on a 2-point conversion off a gadget play in overtime, the local sports community thought they had seen it all.

It was hard to imagine a championship game more compelling, more memorable than that one.

Four years later, the Blue Eagles and Trojans may have even topped what the 2019  did.

The two state-ranked teams with a combined 23-1 record coming in delivered another instant classic complete with a final play that may be talked about for years.

In a game that was scoreless at halftime, Nazareth beat Parkland 24-17 at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium in the rare much-hyped game that more than lived up to its billing.

The two Eastern Pennsylvania Conference powers went toe-to-toe right down to the final play.

In handing Parkand, ranked No. 2 in the state in 6A its first loss after 12 wins, the Blue Eagles rallied from deficits of 3-0, 10-3 and 17-10.

It was the 600th win in Nazareth football history and it’s hard to imagine any of the previous 599 were more satisfying.

In a wild back-and-forth fourth quarter that saw the teams combine for five touchdowns after scoring none through the first three periods, the Blue Eagles scored on a touchdown on a 25-yard run by sophomore quarterback Peyton Falzone with 1:08 left.

And as he did four years ago with a chance to win, head coach Tom Falzone decided to go for two instead of a tie.

“The emotions feel the same as [2019], it’s crazy,” said Falzone, who won his third district title in five seasons. “First off, hats off to Parkland because Coach [Tim] Moncman does a great job and is a class act and those kids battle and fight. When we got down there and could have tied, I thought I didn’t want to go to overtime with Parkland with the way they can grind.”

So, Falzone dialed up another gadget play with star receiver Mason Kuehner, who played a lot in wildcat formation throughout the night, taking the snap out of a unique formation that lined up six guys to the left and put Kuehner with four others on the right hash.

Kuehner took the direct snap, scrambled right to avoid pressure and looked to run, but saw no opening. He leaped and fired a pass to Frankie Mroz, who left his feet for a catch in the end zone.

Mroz snapped the ball to Kueher and then drifted into the end zone as most of the Parkland defense was on the other side of the field and three of the Trojans left chased Kuehner.

“We had to go and we put some new plays in because we figured we would need them,” Falzone said. “It worked. It was a gritty, gutty play by so many different guys. You can’t single anyone out. It was just awesome.”

“We had three linebackers up and I wanted to have man-to-man on the three receivers,” Moncman said. “We lost track of one guy and our edge rusher came inside and let him scramble. His job was to keep him inside and he didn’t, but it happens. High school kids.”

Parkland took over at its 5 with just 65 seconds and had no timeouts left.

But senior quarterback Luke Spang, who was part of a mystery all week as to whether he would play or not after being injured in the semifinal win over Emmaus, led one last drive.

With 15 seconds left and the Trojans having the ball at the Nazareth 40, Spang hit Leo Dauberman at the 25 and Dauberman, who scored Parkland’s first touchdown off a Spang pass, worked his way inside the 20 to about the 16.

That’s when the ball was stripped by the Blue Eagles’ Logan Hilarczyk.

The ball came loose and was scooped up by Marquez Wimberly at the 20. While a flag was thrown, Wimberly kept running, zig-zagging all the way to the end zone as time expired.

It took a few minutes to sort it out. Eventually, the officiating crew said the penalty was on Parkland. That announcement was greeted with instant jubilation by Nazareth and dejection by the Trojans.

“Time was running out and I didn’t want them to get into field goal range,” Hilarczyk said. “I figured I’d have to make a play on the ball and the ball came out. Honestly, I was thinking just get him down. I gave up a big touchdown earlier in the game when they went up 10-3 and I knew I had to be resilient and come back and we brought it home.”

“I honestly don’t know what happened there because there was so much going on,” Falzone said. “That series of events happened so quickly. Then I saw a flag down that was actually a bean bag and I didn’t know what was going on at that point in time. But when we saw it was against Parkland we thought ‘Wow, we actually pulled this thing out.’ Just amazing.”

Falzone said it was an emotional week for him and his staff. Veteran assistant coach Bob Panny was in the hospital battling a major throat issue.

Another assistant, Rob Petrosky, lost his father, Bob.

“A lot of emotion for everybody,” Falzone said. “I know Mr. Petrosky is looking down on us and we definitely miss Coach Panny and hope he’s back soon.”

There will be yet another week for 12-1 Nazareth, which will play the District 12 champ in the state quarterfinals next weekend. It will likely be perennial Philadelphia Catholic League power St. Joe’s Prep, the same team that eliminated the Blue Eagles in 2019, and the game will be played somewhere in the Philly area.

Parkland lost to Prep last year and would have loved another shot, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“Nazareth played their butts off and so did we,” Moncman said. “We just didn’t capitalize on a couple of chances we had on offense in the first half and made some mistakes. I thought our defense played well holding them to 17 points. But we just didn’t make enough plays tonight and Nazareth did and they deserve it.”

Parkland’s defense was able to keep the game scoreless despite Nazareth having the ball for 16 minutes and eight seconds of the 24 minutes played in the first half.

Dauberman blocked a short Nathan Baker field goal attempt to end one Blue Eagles drive and then Nazareth drove 98 yards from its 1 to the Parkland 1 over the final 2:50 of the first half.

But with two seconds left before intermission and the ball at the 1, the Blue Eagles gave the ball to all-league offensive tackle and two-time state champion wrestler Sean Kinney for a throwback play to Refrigerator Perry and the 1985 Chicago Bears.

Kinney, however, couldn’t get in and the game remained scoreless at the break.

The second half was quite different as neither team punted.

Parkland got a 47-yard pass play from Spang to Trey Tremba to set up Aidan Gallagher’s 29-yard field goal to open the scoring early in the third period.

Nazareth answered with a long drive resulting in Nathan Baker’s tying field goal.

Parkland countered with a drive resulting in the Dauberman TD reception and Nazareth answered that with a 26-yard TD run by Jed Bendekovits with 7:48 left.

The Trojans came back right back with Tremba’s 14-yard TD run with 3:31 left and the pickleball-styled back-and-forth continued with the 80-yard drive that led to Falzone’s TD run and the memorable 2-point conversion.

Many felt the rematch from a classic on Sept. 15, a 31-24 Parkland win, wouldn’t be as good. They were wrong.

“I don’t think anyone could explain this game,” Hilarczyk said. “It was just nuts.”

“It was an amazing game across the board,” Moncman said. “They did all the right things and made plays in the end. We still had a shot there. We had the catch and unfortunately fumbled. Maybe we would have been able to spike it and take a shot at the field goal.

“Our seniors were just a phenomenal and one of the greatest group of kids I’ve ever been around,” Moncman added. “It would have been great to see them get a gold. But it’s a life lesson and they should proud of what they accomplished.”

Did you know?

Tremba entered the game with 1,736 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns. Unofficially, he added 108 yards on 19 carries.

Tremba came in with 64 career TDs which, according to District 11 statistician Duke Helm, tied him for 26th place all-time in District 11 history with Jonathan Linton of Catasauqua (1989-92), Rashonn Drayton of Central Catholic (1992-94), and Michael McDaniel of Bethlehem Catholic (2012-14). His one score broke that tie.

Nazareth’s Kuehner entered the game in a tie for 8th-place all-time in District 11 history with 170 catches and was in 8th place in receiving yards with 2,651. His 976 receiving yards was tops this season in District 11 and he entered the game with 62 receptions, tied with Pen Argyl’s Damian Tyminski for the district lead.

He had nine catches for 137 yards against Parkland which enabled him to pass Jahan Dotson for the all-time Nazareth receiving yards record.

The former Penn Stater and current Washington Commander had 2,755 in his three seasons with the program which included his freshman, sophomore and senior seasons. He spent his junior year at the Peddie School in New Jersey.

Nazareth stat man Earl Peck said the Blue Eagles entered the game with an all-time record of 599-355-28. The program began in 1926. The 100th season of Nazareth football will unfold in 2025.

The all-time series with Parkland at kickoff was 27-17 in favor of the Trojans. The first meeting came in 1956 when both were members of the Lehigh-Northampton League and Nazareth posted a 21-6 win under coach Ed Christman.

Scoring summary

Nazareth 0 – 0 – 3 – 21 — 24

Parkland 0 – 0 – 3 – 14 — 17


P: Aidan Gallagher 29 field goal, 9:28

N: Nathan Baker 33 field goal, 4:06


P: Leo Dauberman 36 pass from Luke Spang (Gallagher kick), 11:46

N: Jed Bendekovits 26 run (Baker kick), 7:48

P: Trey Tremba14 run (Gallagher kick), 3:31

N: Peyton Falzone 25 run (Frank Mroz pass from Mason Kuehner), 1:08

N: Marquez Wimberly 80 fumble return (no extra-point attempted), 0:00

Individual stats


Nazareth (41-for-269): Jed Bendekovits 19-148, TD; Peyton Falzone 9-87, TD; Marquez Wimberly 7-27; Mason Kuehner 5-7; Sean Kinney 1-0.

Parkland (29-for-168): Trey Tremba 19-108, TD; Luke Spang 9-60; TJ Lawrence 1-0.


Nazareth: Peyton Falzone 14-25-0, 183 yards; Mason Kuehner 0-1-0.

Parkland: Luke Spang 8-21-0, 142 yards, 1 TD.


Nazareth: Mason Kuehner 9-137; Frankie Mroz 2-13; Logan Hilarczyk 1-18; Marquez Wimberly 1-10; Owen Hasker 1-3.

Parkland: Trey Tremba 2-57; Leo Dauberman 2-53, TD; Jendel Sanchez 2-8; Alex Kelchner 1-12; Connor Johns 1-12.


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