BOILING SPRINGS >> They say that defense always travels. The Palmyra football team certainly proved that adage correct on Friday night.
The unbeaten Cougars packed up their defense and took it for an hour-and-a-half trip to Boiling Springs for a key Mid-Penn Capital Division showdown with the once-beaten Bubblers and their prolific junior running back, Bryan Malone.
By the time Palmyra's defense was done forcing turnovers and generally wreaking havoc, Boiling Springs was twice-beaten and Malone's prolific ways were put on pause for a week.
The Cougars held soon-to-be 1,000-yard rusher Malone to just 28 yards on the ground and the Bubblers to only 113 yards in total en route to improving to 6-0 via a defense-driven 19-0 shutout win.
Palmyra was no offensive juggernaut, either, but did enough to support its smothering defense with two Tyler Gallagher touchdown passes and a pair of Ethan Harro field goals to stay perfect for 2015 and on track for a division title and a postseason berth.
"They played great tonight, they really did," Palmyra coach Chris Pope said of his defense, which featured two Nick Hurst interceptions and fumble recoveries from Mason Cooper and Ian Fogleman. "I just thought we flowed to the ball really well and had a lot of gang tackles. Malone's a great running back, and I thought our defense handled him. We were able to control him."
Palmyra's defense received all the cushion it would need when Gallagher hit Harro for a 52-yard catch-and-run TD with 1:38 left in the opening quarter. Harro would add a clutch 37-yard field goal as time expired in the first half that gave Palmyra a 9-0 halftime lead that may as well have been 90-0 the way the defense was playing.
"We talked at the beginning of the year that this team has great potential," said Pope. "And each week, I think we're finding a little bit more of that. We're making it real. We just want to keep getting better each week. I'm really happy with our guys, obviously, to this point."
The Cougars really showed their mettle on defense to start the third quarter while protecting a then 9-0 lead. Following a botched pooch kick attempt on the kickoff, the Bubblers were granted a golden opportunity with a first down at the Palmyra 26. Seven plays later, the Cougars had the ball back courtesy of a Mason Cooper fumble recovery after Noah Davis stripped Malone of the ball at the Palmyra 17.
"They're a tough team, but we put our minds to it to stop them, and that's what we did," said Cooper, who later hauled in a 13-yard TD pass from Gallagher in the fourth to put the finishing touches on the win. "All we know is work, and we just worked to get better and better."
"Our defense came back and did a great job," Pope said of the stand. "That was awesome."
The Cougars also had some offensive stars, namely Gallagher, who threw for 158 yards and two scores, and Harro, who hauled in 5 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, while also booting field goals of 37 and 22 yards.
Palmyra 19, Boiling Springs 0
P — Harro 52 pass from Gallagher (kick blocked)
P — Harro 37 FG
T2 — x
P — Harro 22 FG
P — Cooper 13 pass from Gallagher (Harro kick)
PBSFirst downs95Rushes-yards38-6225-34Passing11-17-06-19-2Passing yards15879Total yards20113Punts7-31.86-25.2Fumbles-lost2-03-2Penalties-yards4-303-25
Rushing — P: Rhette 24-43, D.Sosnoski 6-9, Gallagher 6-5, Yingst 2-5, BS: Malone 14-28, Breon 9-21, Edwards 1-2, Mancuso 1-(-17).
Passing — P: Gallagher 11-17-0-158, BS: Breon 4-13-2-27, Mancuso 2-6-0-52.
Receiving — P: Harro 5-102, Robertson 2-17, Cooper 2-14, Rhette 1-24, Yingst 1-1. BS: Hacker 2-21, Ruby 1-23, Edwards 1-17, Goshorn 1-15, Malone 1-3.