WEST NORRITON >> For the first time since the Norristown football team played at the historic Roosevelt Field, the Eagles played a home game under the bright Friday night lights.
Norristown took the field with the lights shining down in front of packed home bleachers against Cheltenham Friday at the Norristown Area High School Athletic Complex.
“First night game in 10 years,” Norristown Athletic Director Anthony Palladino said prior to a 48-14 Cheltenham win. “The last one was down at Roosevelt, so this is the first night game ever on campus for us. It’s a huge deal. We have our students doing a tailgate right now – big turn out for that. Our football team is excited, cheerleaders, just the whole community is just ecstatic over this. The lights look great, the stadium is coming around. We couldn’t be happier tonight.”
“It felt special,” Norristown junior Zion Malone said. “I love playing.”
Flipping the switch
Cheltenham’s offense couldn’t get anything going in the first quarter. The Panthers first three drives ended with a fumble and two punts before falling behind, 7-0, on a Thomas Bellmon-to-Tyson Tate three-yard score midway through the second quarter.
Cheltenham answered the Eagles touchdown immediately. Nate Edwards returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to tie the game at seven.
After another long Norristown touchdown drive, capped by a 33-yard Zion Malone run, the Panthers started feeding their running back. Jamir Barnes ran the ball four straight plays and – with the help of a 15-yard Norristown penalty – covered 62 yards to tie the game at 14.
“I just told my line to trust me and keep feeding me the ball,”Barnes, who rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown and added a 19-yard touchdown reception, said. “I told my coach that I was ready to go and he just gave it to me.”
Panthers defensive back Zachary Gaffin recovered a fumble on the final play of the first half and threatened to return it 60 yards for a touchdown, but was brought down about 25 yards short after maneuvering through would-be tacklers. Despite him not scoring and the half ending, the play kept the momentum going for Cheltenham.
Cheltenham started the second half with a three-play touchdown drive to take the lead for good, 21-14.
“We had the momentum at halftime (from recovering the fumble),” Barnes said. “We had the ball, kept pounding the ball and scored.”
The Panthers followed by forcing a three-and-out and scoring touchdowns on their next four possessions to build a 48-14 lead.
Eagles bright spot
Malone was a bright spot for Norristown.
The 5-foot-11 180-pound junior carried the ball 10 times for 117 yards and a touchdown and added five catches for 42 yards.
“I was getting a lot of good blocks in the game,” Malone said. “My line was putting in a lot of work tonight. All the glory to them.”
Cheltenham and Norristown combined for 25 penalties Friday night.
The Panthers committed 15 penalties for 140 yards and the Eagles 10 penalties for 105 yards.
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