UNION TWP. — As a group, the Lake-Lehman Black Knights broke from their post-game huddle, raced to their sideline, grabbed a pole carrying their school flag and planted it right in the center of Northwest’s new turf football field.
As usual, Ryan Eiden was right in the middle of it.
Eiden ran for two touchdowns, scored another on a 97-yard kickoff return and accumulated 275 all-purpose yards Friday while leading Lehman to a 35-21 victory over Northwest — as well as the Black Knights’ charge to the 50-yard line afterwards.
“Two years ago, they came to our field and beat us,” Eiden, a sophomore, said. “They danced on our field last time. We were just going to give it back to them. They want to make this a rivalry. It’s not a rivalry.
“We’re not going to let it come to that.”
Not if Eiden can help it.
His 53-yard touchdown burst early in the second quarter gave the Black Knights a two-touchdown lead and his 5-yard run to the end zone cashed in an interception by teammate Josh Durling and gave Lehman a 21-7 edge with 35 seconds to play in the first half.
“Eiden had a hell of a game,” Lake-Lehman coach Jerry Gilsky said.
The super-quick and shifty running back finished with a game-high 152 yards on 11 carries and caught all three Lehman completions for 32 more yards.
But his big return proved the backbreaker to Northwest.
It came after the Rangers opened the second half with an 80-yard touchdown drive, closing within 21-14 when quarterback David Piestrak caught a 38-yard pass from running back Tyler Stevens off a lateral, then fired a 6-yard scoring strike to Bryce Koser.
It didn’t take long for Eiden to temper the Rangers’ enthusiasm.
He scooped up the ensuing kickoff at the Lehman 3-yard line, maneuvered up the middle, then shot down the right sideline for a 97-yard kick return touchdown that put the Black Knights back up by two scores.
“Everytime you ask me, I’m going to give it to the line,” Eiden said. “And the coaches. They told me exactly what to do, how to run, how to keep your balance.”
The Black Knights kept things pretty even in their running game, as Zack Kojadanovich rushed for 136 yards and two scores to pair nicely with Eiden, while Matt Kurtz added 38 yards on eight carries.
But Lehman was especially pleased with Eiden, who Gilsky said corrected a few mistakes from his last performance.
“Last week, Eiden would slow up on tackles,” Gilsky said. “Now, he’s driving his shoulder through. Credit to him, he took the criticism and made adjustments.”
Something worked, as seven of Eiden’s 11 carries went for 10 yards or more while he averaged more than 13 yards per carry.
“Our coach said you’ve got to lower your shoulder,” Eiden said. “I realized today it’s a lot more efficient.”
Meanwhile, Lehman’s defense limited Northwest’s ground game to 104 yards, and blanketed receivers in the secondary.
The Rangers scored their first two touchdowns by reaching deep into the playbook, as Koser took a lateral and unleashed a 66-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Wassel for Northwest’s first score and the second came after Piestrak left his quarterback spot to snare a 38-yard throw from Stevens.
“They had to pull everything out of the bag,” Gilsky said. “Defensively, our kids contained what they want to do. So they had to pull their bag of tricks out. We took that away from them.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski