Falcons come to New Tripoli for D-11 game
For a long time, Northwestern was used to playing a 10-game football schedule and then handing in their uniforms and moving on with the school year. Now though, things are different. The Tigers not only expect to play more than 10 games, they expect to play a lot of extra games.
Two years ago, it was the Eastern Conference playoffs where they were crowned champions. Last season, they took the next step, won districts and advanced all the way to the PIAA Semi-Finals before making their exit. This season, they expect all of that and more, with a mission to play for the state championship.
To that end, the Tigers see Salisbury as an obstacle that they simply have to throw to the side on their trip through the postseason maze.
The first step is conquering the two games that they need to win in the District 11 Playoffs, with Salisbury set as the first opponent. Following that is a possible rematch with the Notre Dame Crusaders, who dealt Northwestern a 31-19 loss in the season’s first week. For now though, it’s all about Salisbury.
“We’ve been here before and we know it’s a new season,” said Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder. “It’s win or go home and we’re taking that mentality and know that our senior group is not ready to be done yet. We’re pretty amped up, because we know we didn’t play our best game against Salisbury the first time. We want to get back to that championship game and Salisbury stands in our way of that game.”
It was just over a month ago when Northwestern beat the Falcons 30-21 at Tiger Stadium. The win separated the two teams, putting the Tigers at 4-2, while the Falcons fell to 3-3. That win was the difference in the seedings of the two teams, making Salisbury travel to The Jungle to face the Tigers.
Harry Hall was his usual workhorse self as he carried the ball 32 times for 191 yards, partly because quarterback Dylan Snyder was hampered with a sore shoulder. Snyder is healthy now and the Northwestern passing game could be a bigger part of the Tigers’ offense.
“Harry’s going to get his carries and we’re going to have to use screens and plays off of our run game. We’ve worked very hard this week to prepare and we just have to play responsibility football and be ready for what they’re going to do,” Snyder said.
Most of Salisbury’s offense was generated through the air by quarterback Tevon Weber, who threw 26 times for 246 yards. Much of the success came from Weber improvising while he scrambled around, buying time for his receivers to come open and then pinpointing a pass to make something out of what could have been negative yards.
“We’ve game planned against him and used that film to our advantage to change what we’re doing and keep their players in check,” said Snyder. “We’ve also developed some drills to lock onto those receivers. Our objective is to eliminate the big play and make them earn it. Hopefully, if we can make them go 12 or 13 plays, they’ll make a mistake and we can capitalize on that. They’re going to get some yards with the pass, but we just have to look to limit that.”
While the first meeting will give both teams a sense of familiarity with each other, Snyder believes that his team is facing a challenge that Salisbury won’t in the rematch.
“One negative is that it’s just really tough to beat a team two times in the same season, it’s not easy to beat a high-caliber team like Salisbury once, so we’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Snyder. “They’ve got that – I don’t want to call it revenge – wanting to get back at us for dropping that game to us, so it’s some give and take,” said Snyder.
Thanks to being the higher seed, Northwestern gets to host the district opener against Salisbury, Friday night at Tiger Stadium. Should they get the anticipated rematch with the Crusaders, that game would be at Notre Dame, because they are the top seed. A Northwestern win and a Notre Dame loss would bring North Schuylkill to Tiger Stadium next week in a rematch of last year’s District 11 championship, which saw the Tigers on the road for that matchup.