Northwestern Press

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Tigers tame Falcons

Thursday, September 13, 2012 by MIKE HAINES mhaines@tnonline.com in HS Sports

When one football team beats another in all three facets of the game - offense, defense and special teams - the result is usually a comfortable margin of victory.

Northwestern beat Salisbury in all three phases last week and came away with a 23-0 win in the 2012 Tiger Stadium home opener.

After losing by 41 points in week 1, the Tigers wanted to prove they're a better team than the one that was shut out by Palisades on opening night.

"To come back off a 41-0 loss and win 23-0, it feels great," said Northwestern running back Mason Schuler.

If last week's final score wasn't enough to motivate the senior running back, the team's rushing statistics were. The Tigers finished the Palisades loss with no rushing yards on 20 carries. This week, Schuler accounted 68 of his team's 157 total rushing yards.

"That's never happened to me before," Schuler said. "I wasn't letting that happen again. Our line wasn't letting that happen again. Our line coach pushed them all week. We've got to have a running game."

"We challenged the running backs this week," said head coach Josh Snyder. "And the linemen. You saw Mason on the field the whole night. He didn't come out. He has a lot of heart. He keeps his shoulder pads low to the ground. He'll pound you. We've got some big linemen and he's able to sneak through there and get some yards."

The holes weren't huge, but they were just enough to get the shifty Tiger backs into the second level and keep the chains moving.

Northwestern's defense allowed just one Falcon first down in the first half, and that came on the game's first play. The Tigers (1-1) allowed just 2.2 yards per carry and only four first downs in the game. The Falcons (0-2) managed just 83 yards of offense Friday night and turned the ball over twice.

The best stat for Northwestern's defense is that it gave up 41 points fewer than last week.

"We went to a more attacking man to man defense," said Snyder. "We had every gap filled and our linebackers were unblocked most of the night and played downhill. Our secondary was phenomenal. They tackled well and ran to the football."

The Tigers' special teams were also key to the win over Salisbury. The punt return team constantly harassed Falcon punter Derek Brown, including a partially blocked punt that resulted in just a three-yard punt.

Tiger punter Justin Betz booted a 61-yarder that pinned the Falcons on their own 1-yard line and led to Cameron Richardson's 34-yard return touchdown.

"Our special teams played tremendous," said Snyder.

The Tigers managed just one first down on their first three possessions, but put together a 77-yard, 10-play drive late in the first quarter that was capped by Frank Dangello's 31-yard touchdown pass to freshman Dylan Snyder for a 6-0 lead with 11:50 left in the first half.

Northwestern's next drive was another three-and-out, but Betz boomed his big punt, which rolled to a stop on the Salisbury 1-yard line. The Tiger defense held strong for three plays before the Falcons punted to Richardson at the 34-yard line. He took it all the way, giving his team a 13-0 lead with 6:18 left in the second quarter.

Salisbury finished the first half with just 34 yards of offense and one first down.

The Tigers made it 20-0 on their second possession of the third quarter.

Dangello hit Tyler Richardson with a 16-yard touchdown pass to cap a 9-play, 92-yard drive and give his team a 20-0 lead with 24 seconds left in the third quarter.

Dangello, a sophomore making his second varsity start, went 6 for 18 for 83 yards with a pair of touchdown tosses.

He was happy the offense bounced back this week and expects the progress to continue.

"This week at practice was the most intense we've had," he said. "All the hard work paid off.

"We left a bunch of plays on the field tonight and we still came out with a 23-point victory. There's a lot of room to improve. We can still get better."

The Tigers capped the scoring with John Dolonich's 25-yard field goal, which deflected off the right upright and through for a 23-0 lead with 4:56 left in the game.