Reeling Spartans top Tigers for first win
For the first time since its week 1 loss to Palisades, Northwestern looked like the young football team that it is.
Last Friday night a visiting Southern Lehigh team desperately needing a win came into Tiger Stadium and played its best game of the season.
The Spartans' backs were to the wall and they played like it, posting a 46-10 win and keeping Northwestern at arms length after opening an early lead.
"They're a well-coached football team with a lot of skill guys and five seniors on their line," said Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder. "We have zero seniors on our line and I think they took us to school a little bit in the trenches."
The Spartans (1-3) used the passing game to build a big lead. But when they had the Tigers (2-2) on the ropes, they went to their bread and butter, keeping the ball on the ground for all but four plays in the second half.
"We went back to basic wing-T," said Toman. "We were running trap, sweep, power and counter and they couldn't handle it."
Southern Lehigh's offensive line dominated the second half, clearing the way for 176 rushing yards after intermission. They handed the ball to eight different running backs in the game and four had 34 yards or more.
Not only were the Spartans in virtually a must win situation, but they were as healthy as they've been since preseason.
"It's been a rough three weeks," said Southern Lehigh head coach John Toman. "This is the first time since we scrimmaged Central that we had every kid on the field with us. This is the first time we've stepped on the field with all the pieces in place.
"It's nice to get the monkey off our back."
Southern Lehigh jumped out to a quick lead when Jacob DelPriorecaught a 41-yard touchdown pass on the Spartans' first play from scrimmage.
They made it 12-0 on a 7-yard Dylan Schmidt touchdown run with six seconds left in the first quarter. They went up 20-0 after an interception gave them the ball at midfield early in the second quarter.
A six-play drive was capped by quarterback Travis Edmond's 39-yard touchdown pass to Schmidt with 9:06 left before halftime.
Northwestern kept it close for a while. After a 36-yard Cam Richardson kick return gave the Tigers good field position, they mounted an eight-play drive capped by Richardson's 1-yard touchdown run that made it 20-7 with 5:21 left in the first half.
The Tigers cut the deficit to 10 after a Mason Schuler interception early in the second half gave them the ball at the Southern Lehigh 7-yard line. A 26-yard field goal by John Dolonich made it 20-10 with 7:14 left in the third quarter.
The Spartans responded with their most impressive drive of the game. They kept the ball on the ground for an entire 10-play drive, going 75 yards to pay dirt and extending the lead to 26-10 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.
"We took it to a two-possession game and thought we could build on that," said Snyder. "Their next drive was really a back-breaking drive. They got behind their two big guys and took it down the field."
Southern Lehigh added three more scores. Spencer Cobb's 33-yard touchdown run with 10:16 left in the game gave the Spartans a 32-10 lead. Schmidt added a 28-yard touchdown run with 8:41 left that made it 39-10.
Christian Ricci capped the scoring at 46-10 with a 1-yard run with 7:04 left.
Northwestern committed five turnovers as Southern Lehigh's defense played its best game of the season. Not coincidentally it came in the return of inside linebacker Collin Kendrick, who missed the first few games with an injury.
"We're a little different team when Collin Kendrick is in the middle of our defense," said Toman. "He makes it go for us defensively. He was all over the field [Friday night]."
The Tigers expected to face a team fighting for its first win and to stay in district playoff contention. And they got what they expected.
"We knew we were going to get their best shot with their backs against the wall," said Snyder. "We didn't overlook them. We weren't overconfident or anything like that."