Football looks to extend win streak vs. No. Lehigh
Rivalry games bring out the best of both teams, so you can never be quite sure what to expect. With that in mind, the Northwestern Tigers (6-2) are hoping that the numbers continue the way they’ve been recently in their rivalry with Northern Lehigh (4-4).
Over the past two seasons, Northwestern has had the upper-hand, beating the Bulldogs by a combined score of 70-6, including a 42-6 win last season at Tiger Stadium.
Prior to those two wins though, Northern Lehigh ruled the roost, with their last win coming in 2012 when they beat the Tigers 57-19
“It’s one every year that you look forward to,” said Tiger head coach Josh Snyder, a Northwestern graduate. “Everything that surrounds the game now, the stone that gets passed back-and-forth to the winners and the naming of the Mountain Road Rumble between the two schools just gives it added flavor.”
The Bulldogs can put points on the board and have averaged 28 points per game this season. The defense can struggle at times, including over the past two weeks when it allowed a combined 88 points to Salisbury and Southern Lehigh, enduring its first back-to-back losses of the season.
For the third straight week, running back Harry Hall set a school record last week in the Tigers 28-21 win over Palmerton. He became the school’s all-time rusher against Salisbury, broke the career touchdown mark against Southern Lehigh and became the school’s all-purpose yards leader last week against Palmerton, breaking the previous mark of 5,432 held by his coach, Josh Snyder.
Last week was also Hall’s third straight 200-yard rushing game and he now has 15 straight games scoring at least one touchdown, dating back to 2014.
“The sheer numbers are definitely very impressive,” said Snyder. “One thing about Northwestern football is that we’ve always been able to run the football and for him to be the best one, numbers-wise, in the history of this school, I think he’s definitely up there among the top two or three running backs and football players of all-time.”
Northern Lehigh will need to not only start strong against the Tigers, but they’ll need to keep the pressure on all game, because Northwestern is adept at adjusting to what another team does and the Tigers aren’t easily rattled.
In last week’s win over Palmerton, the Blue Bombers came out in a spread-wing offense, which they hadn’t used in at least two years. The change kept the Tigers off-stride early on, but they eventually found ways to shut down the offense and come from behind, scoring 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
“It’s tough to scout and game plan, because it seems like each and every week, we’re not getting what a team has shown all year,” said Snyder. “That’s happened to us four or five times this year out of eight games.
“Each week, we game plan against what we think the other team will do, but every week, we practice against every type of defense and front that’s out there, so our guys are prepared and ready if something changes.”
The Tigers did get a bit of bad news this week, when they officially lost lineman Chet Karpyn for the season. Karpyn, a senior, injured his foot earlier this season and it was hoped that he would be able to return for the postseason, but he underwent surgery on Wednesday and is now out for the year.
After winning the Class AA Eastern Conference Championship last season, Northern Lehigh was looking to make a trip into the District 11 playoffs in 2015. It’s not going to be easy for them to pull that off at this point, but a win over Northwestern would go a long way toward getting them there. For Northwestern, a win doesn’t necessarily guarantee them a spot in districts, but it would pretty much push the door open for them to walk through. The Tigers are currently second behind Notre Dame (8-0), the only Class AA team to clinch a district spot. Northern Lehigh is tied for the fourth and final spot with North Schuylkill, Palisades, Palmerton and Tamaqua, who are all 4-4.