Rematch coming in D-11 final
The first week of the football season holds promise for a lot of teams. Now, nearly three months later, most of those teams have fallen by the wayside, with the exception of a few of the strongest teams.
In the Class AA ranks, Notre Dame (Green Pond) and defending district champ Northwestern met in week one, when a rejuvenated Notre Dame squad, complete with reinforcements from the closing of Pius X High School, sent a message.
In a 31-19 win, the Crusaders ended a long losing skid and started on their way to an 9-1 season. Northwestern got the message loud and clear and would lose just one other time on its way to an 8-2 regular season. Now, the two teams are poised to see what happens in the rematch, though this time, there’s a lot more on the line.
“A lot of things have happened since week one,” said Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder. “I think that loss gave us the opportunity to look in the mirror and see what we had to do as a team and as a program.
“We’ve become a lot more dynamic and guys have stepped up and we’re able to spread the wealth and get other guys involved and we’re a lot more dynamic, at least offensively.”
One big change is the development of quarterback Dylan Snyder, who made his first varsity start under center against Notre Dame back in September. The outcome wasn’t what he would have hoped for, but the senior quarterback threw for over 1,000 yards this season, while rushing for over 500 more, just the tenth quarterback in Northwestern’s history to accomplish those two feats.
“We’re different for a couple reasons,” said Josh Snyder. “One, we’re just way more dynamic on offense, not only because Dylan has developed and knows the offense better, but also, from a coaching standpoint.
“We just know what to expect from our team and how they operate. We’re much better at putting them in a position to be successful, by knowing what they’re good at and what they’re not good at.”
That opening loss hasn’t been forgotten. Northwestern’s players and coaches were glad to see Notre Dame beat North Schuylkill in last week’s semifinal game, giving them the chance for a rematch with the Crusaders.
“Taking Xs and Os out of it, I think, yes [they wanted to play Notre Dame]. We weren’t happy with how some of the things went down in that first game. We didn’t feel like we were respected that well after the game, and sometimes, during the game. It just put a bad, bad taste in our mouth and usually, you just go on and you just take it and you’ve got to wait until next year to do something about it.
“But in this situation, we can do something about it this time around and at least get another opportunity,” said Josh Snyder, who predicted the rematch would take place. “I’m friends with Phil Stambaugh [Notre Dame’s assistant coach] and I told him after the game, ‘we’ll see you in districts.’ It’s 11 weeks later and that has come true. It’s a game that our guys are really ready to get after.”
Snyder and Stambaugh are old friends from their time together at Lehigh University, but they’re also both competitive enough to want to get one-up on their former college teammate in both football and baseball.
The Crusaders can be a physical, no-holds-barred type of team. Of course, the same can be said of Northwestern, a team known for its size and physical play. That will make the play of the offensive and defensive lines on both sides a key factor, but Josh Snyder sees other important areas where his team needs to be successful.
“We’re not going to back down from anybody,” he said. “We’re going to go out there and fight tooth and nail. We’re always going to be in the game, because our kids are such fighters.
“To be successful in this game we’re going to have to control the ball on offense, stay ahead of the chains and have zero negative plays, sustain drives and finish in the end zone.
“Defensively, we have to look for three-and-out, don’t give up any big plays and finally, win the turnover battle.”