Fast start leads to D-11 semifinal win
For the first 12 minutes, Northwestern and Palisades could have used just a 50-yard field, because all of the action was on one end of the field, thanks to a strong wind and an even stronger Tigers defense. The result was a quick lead and eventually, a 42-14 win for Northwestern to send them to the district championship game against North Schuylkill.
Palisades' plan was to keep the Northwestern offense off the field as much as possible, so when they won the coin toss, the Pirates elected to receive, leaving Northwestern to choose which end of the field they wanted to defend. That might have been when Palisades lost the game. The Tigers chose to have the strong, gusting wind at their backs to open the game and it proved to be the undoing of Palisades.
The defense backed Palisades closer to their own goal line and the wind turned a high punt into just a 16-yard kick that left Northwestern with good field position. The defense would stay strong, leaving Northwestern to start their first three offensive drives from the Palisades 31, 43 and 15 yard lines, resulting in three quick scores and a 21-0 lead.
"They elected to take the kick, so we went with the wind and I think they threw two out of their first three plays and we backed them up and then kicking into the wind and giving us a short field, we did what we needed to do, march down the field and put it in and before you know it, they're playing from behind," explained coach Josh Snyder.
Cam Richardson scored four times for the Tigers, with his first score coming on a 17-yard run after taking the snap directly from center. Richardson scampered nine yards for a touchdown on the second possession and Frank Dangello hit Taylor Breininger with a four-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter.
Richardson rushed for 100 yards and teammate Harry Hall would finish with 113 yards. Richardson's rushing yardage pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark for both receiving and rushing in his career, making him the first Northwestern player to accomplish that feat. Meanwhile, Hall's night pushed him over the 1,500-yard mark for the second straight season. The 42 points also gave the team a school record of 459 points on the season.
"It's great, but I'd give up all of my stats for a district title," said Richardson, who could have his stats and the title with a win over North Schuylkill next week.
Richardson also believes that while both he and the team have had big offensive outputs, it's the defense that is helping to drive the team.
"Our defense sort of gets overlooked, because our offense gets on the field and usually scores pretty quickly," said Richardson. "Especially our D-line is pretty overlooked. They're big and physical and we have to give it to them tonight."
A key part of the defense, especially on the early possessions, was junior Andrew Sorensen, who came up big to put Palisades in a hole and allowed Northwestern to take control of the game early. On the first play from scrimmage, Sorensen sacked Pirates quarterback Austin Krauss for a five-yard loss.
"We just had great motivation, great preparation and came out with our hair on fire and I decided why wait? And we started the game right," said Sorensen. "Our defense is championship material."
Following the game, a number of Northwestern's seniors walked hand-in-hand across the field and back, reflecting on their last game on their home field.