Tigers fall in D-11 title game
Coming into their match up with Notre Dame in the District 11 Class AA Championship, Northwestern coach Josh Snyder knew that the team that protected the football the best would likely be wearing gold medals at the end of the night. And he was right.
Five turnovers by the Tigers helped Notre Dame take a 32-22 win over Northwestern and the district championship, which was won by Northwestern last season.
Northwestern fumbled the ball away twice and had three passes picked off. In the first half, Northwestern had three possessions in a row end on turnovers. Of the five turnovers, two led directly to points for the Crusaders, with Notre Dame converting one turnover into a field goal and another into a touchdown.
Early on, a mistake by Notre Dame put the Cursaders behind. Aaron Weller muffed a punt by Northwestern and the ball scooted all the way from the 20-yard line into the end zone where Northwestern’s Trevor Cunningham pounced on it for a quick 7-0 lead.
“That was a big play for us,” said Snyder. “Anytime you get a play like that, especially early in the game, it can be a back-breaker for the other team and I thought that would set the tone for us.”
Notre Dame used quick, safe passes to the outside through much of the game to pick up yards and keep drives alive.
Tre Jordan started the night by completing his first 16 passes for 105 yards. He finished the night 33-for-44 for 282 yards passing and one touchdown, which came on a 46-yard pass to Jon Moran that put Notre Dame up 14-7 early in the second quarter. Jordan also ran two yards for Notre Dame’s first touchdown of the night.
“We were able to contain him [Jordan] from running around too much and gaining a lot of yards on the ground,” said Snyder. “But we couldn’t shut down those short passes that they were using. He’s so good that you have to realize he’s going to be able to beat you in different ways and tonight they had a good game plan for him and they were the better team.”
Throughout the game, the Notre Dame defense found ways to keep Northwestern from getting too much momentum.
Harry Hall finished the night with 99 yards rushing, giving him 5,068 yards rushing over his career at Northwestern. Just when it looked like Hall was starting to get into a rhythm, Notre Dame would come up with a big stop on the Tigers all-time leading rusher.
“It was an injustice to this Notre Dame team to not get any first team guys on defense,” said Snyder. “That Woody kid [Destyn Woody] is maybe the best defensive player in the league, their linebackers are outstanding, and they’re tough, and we knew that.
“We thought that we could break a couple, but with the turnovers, we just couldn’t get any continuity going on offense; we were stuck in mud, basically. That was a recurring theme in our losses. You look at our three losses and we turned the ball over in all of them. We’ve shown that when we hang onto the ball, we can win, but the turnovers just put us in too much of a hole and killed the momentum.”
Notre Dame moves on to play Dunmore, the champion from District 2 to open next week’s PIAA playoffs.
Last season, it was Northwestern whichmoved into the state tournament, reaching the semifinals before its season finally came to an end. The Tigers finished this season at 8-2 in the Colonial League and 9-3 overall on the year.
“We feel good about how we’re leaving the program,” said senior Teagen Golden. “We left a good legacy for the rest of the classes to build on and we finished with a district title last year and came close this year. It’s hard to believe that we came from where we were a couple years ago to this point.”
This year’s seniors were freshmen when Josh Snyder took over the program and he wasn’t afraid to play them early on and rely on them to be the group that would help turn the program around. “We knew four years ago that there were some good, tough kids in this group and it hasn’t surprised me how far they brought the program. We always tell the kids, ‘write your own legacy,’ and they’ve definitely done that,” said Snyder of his senior players.
A number of juniors have already begun to leave make their mark on the team. Trevor Cunningham was one of the leading receivers on this year’s team and Tyler Foster and Ryan Hippensteel had some big games defensively.