Freedom came into the district title game as the hottest team in the area. The Patriots had won five straight, including their last three games of the regular season and two district playoffs games.
But they ran into a team that seems to get hot every November when they fell to five-time champion Parkland 24-14 in Friday’s District 11 Class 6A title game at J. Birney Crum Stadium.
The Patriots started the game with the momentum of their five-game streak and last week’s win over top-seeded Emmaus, but Parkland overcame a 14-3 deficit with three unanswered touchdowns.
Parkland entered this year’s District 11 Class 6A tournament as the No. 3 seed with three losses on its record.
They didn’t follow the same path as the past four years, but the Trojans finished at the same destination as they hoisted the district trophy for the fifth straight time with Friday night’s 24-14 win over Freedom.
“We probably weren’t expected to do this, losing the talent that we did,” said Parkland head coach Tim Moncman. “It’s a tribute to [this year’s players]. They worked their butts off, weight room and everything. Here we are. We get to live another week.”
Freedom had the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference’s last undefeated team on the ropes early Friday night.
But Emmaus used a strong running game and its special teams weapon to battle back from an early deficit and hand the Patriots their second straight loss.
“I’ll take it any way we can get it,” said Emmaus head coach Harold Fairclough. “People can say it was sloppy, but it was a battle. It wasn’t going to be easy. We weren’t going to blow this team out.”
The Patriots opened the game with a six-play touchdown drive capped by Cyrus Thompson’s 62-yard run.
After beating Emmaus in a close regular season dual meet, Freedom came into last week’s District 11 team tournament match up against Emmaus with confidence.
However, the Hornets earned an emotional win in the first bout and led from there on before winning 41-20 to knock the Patriots out of the tournament.
“I’m disappointed,” said Patriot head coach Brandon Hall. “From top to bottom I don’t think we wrestled our best tonight. I think every one of these kids would echo that, as would the assistant coaches.
Jaylen Aminu came into the state track and field championship meet with something to prove.
The Liberty sophomore had broken the 12-second mark at districts and went to states as the top seed in the 100-meter dash. She wanted to prove she could do it again. And she did.
Aminu ran the preliminary race in 11.9, not far off the 11.77 she posted at districts. She came back to run 12.0 in the semifinal and 12.09 in the final.
Sydnee Karam finished off a stellar swimming career with two more titles last weekend at the District 11 Class AA Championships.
The Bethlehem Catholic senior won the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events, capping a career that saw her win all eight district championship races she entered over her four-year career.
"I am so excited, so happy, so relieved," she said. "I'm thankful that all my hard work paid off. I knew it was possible. I didn't know if I could do it. I had to keep myself in line all four years of high school and it paid off."
Bethlehem Catholic sent a dozen wrestlers to the PIAA Class AA Southeast Regional Championships, and all 12 performed well enough to advance to this weekend's state championships.
The Golden Hawks crowned three regional champs and had two others finish in the top-three Saturday evening at Wilson High School in Reading.
Freshman Luke Karam (106) and senior teammates Darian Cruz (120) and Ryan Todora (138) all went 3-0 at regionals to earn their titles.
It wasn't long ago that most of the best teams in Bethlehem's Holiday Wrestling Classic came from District 11.
That time has passed.
This year's Classic saw District 2's Wyoming Seminary cruise to the team title while the highest-finishing District 11 team was the Colonial League's Saucon Valley in seventh place.
Freedom finished higher than any other Lehigh Valley big school team, taking 10th place. Liberty was a few places behind in 12th.
The Hurricanes had the top finisher among the two Bethlehem high schools.
Nick Maff didn't know exactly what his lead was coming down the stretch. He got to three under par early in Monday's District 11 golf championship and finished at four under, three strokes better than second-place finisher Evan Notaro of Northampton in the Class AAA tournament.
Maff knew he had to be at or near the top. And the Bethlehem Catholic freshman handled the pressure like a season veteran.
"I got some nerves," said Maff. "I just wanted to par out and not make any stupid mistakes."
In most tournaments, golfers are playing to win and second place means about as much as fifth or tenth or last.
The District 11 Championship Qualifying Tournament is a little different. There's not medal for first place, no prize for winning. And for most golfers, 10th place or 15th place feels just as good as first. The only thing that matters is getting through the tournament and advancing to the district championships.