Tigers suffer first loss of season
Coming into its game with Southern Lehigh, the Northwestern defense had allowed just 44 points all season. The Spartans put on a near perfect performance against the Tigers and scored 40 points in a 40-37 win over the previously undefeated Northwestern squad. The game puts both teams at 6-1 in the West Division of the Colonial League. Saucon Valley is the only other Colonial League team with a 6-1 mark this season.
Southern Lehigh quarterback Travis Edmond threw for 279 yards and rushed for another 151 yards on the night, with both numbers being among the most yards gained by a player against the Northwestern defense this season. The two teams traded scoring blows through much of the first half, with Frank Dangello hitting Cam Richardson on a six-yard touchdown pass with just :06 left in the second quarter, giving Northwestern a 21-20 lead at the half. Dangello finished the night 7-for-14 for 96 yards and two touchdown passes.
Northwestern made its situation much tougher by making some key mistakes, which is uncharacteristic of the team. The Tigers also came up short when they needed a big play, which is also not a usual part of their play.
With less than a minute to go in the first quarter, Dangello attempted to pitch the ball to Dylan Snyder and the play was disrupted by a strong defensive push, resulting in a fumble that Southern Lehigh's Nico Bonnie recovered and ran in for a touchdown. The Tigers lost another fumble in the second quarter that also led to a Southern Lehigh touchdown.
In the second half, Northwestern twice went for it on fourth-and-one in their own territory and both times the Spartans defense was up to the task and stuffed the play. On both ensuing drives, Southern Lehigh put the ball in the end zone.
"Obviously, the two fourth-and-ones in our own territory were huge, but I had faith in our guys to get it done," said Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder. "They were very aggressive on defense, maybe I should have called a couple of play actions a little bit earlier to soften them up a little bit, but we stuck to our game plan and they played really well against us."
Northwestern was down by 11 points with just under two minutes left in the game when Taylor Breininger scooped up a fumble and ran 75 yards for a touchdown. Dangello hit Richardson on a two-point conversion, to cut the lead to three, but Southern Lehigh recovered an onside kick at midfield and was able to run out the clock.
A win would have put Northwestern comfortably in the Colonial League driver's seat, but the loss makes things much more interesting, and much tougher. The key for the Tigers now is to not let this loss become a monkey on their backs as they play through the rest of the schedule that starts with a trip to Palmerton this Friday.
"It's all right," said junior Andrew Sorensen. "We've got to keep our heads up and we've got great leaders on our team, like Frankie [Dangello] and Cam [Richardson] and all those guys. So, we just have to keep our heads up and just keep winning our games."