Tigers can’t look past Slaters
No matter what situation his team is in, Josh Snyder coaches his players to look at the next game on the schedule as the biggest game on the schedule. This week is the perfect example why.
Snyder doesn’t want his team looking back at its win over previously undefeated Saucon Valley, because that win won’t mean nearly as much if Bangor were to upset the Tigers Friday night.
He also doesn’t want them looking ahead to next week’s game against Southern Lehigh, the team that is tied with Northwestern at the top of the West Division standings, because that’s the perfect recipe for losing to a team like Bangor.
Even with all the focus he puts on the task at hand, Snyder admits, it can be tough for his players to not let their attention stray toward next week.
“They’re young and they know how big that game against Southern is going to be, so they want to start talking about that and looking at that,” said Snyder. “We keep reminding them that if we lose this week, that game next week might not be as big as we think it is now. It’s all about taking care of things this week before we move ahead.”
The Slaters opened the season with back-to-back tough games against Saucon Valley and Notre Dame, dropping both games by a combined 98-36 score. In week three, they played Northern Lehigh tough, but lost a 39-33 contest. Things looked better after a win over Salisbury in week four, but two losses since then have the Slaters looking up at four teams ahead of them in the East Division.
“Bangor has played some teams tough and that’s why you can’t look past them,” warned Snyder. “We’re playing at their place and they would like nothing better than to play the spoiler role, so they’ll be ready for us.”
Last week, Trevor Cunningham had a big game for Northwestern. While Snyder is quick to recognize his standout player, he also is quick to point out that his team has other weapons that it can use to beat teams and they look to show that against Bangor.
“Phil [Dangello] has done a nice job for us out of the wildcat and we might use him in some different situations just out of the backfield,” said Snyder. “You always want your offense to evolve and with some of our young guys, we’ve been giving them more responsibilities as the season has gone on and we’re going to keep doing that.”
One of the challenges for the Northwestern defense is in stopping running back Saivaughn Vass, who has rushed for 571 yards this season and is second among running backs in the Colonial League.
Last week, Southern Lehigh was able to hold Vass to just 39 yards on 11 carries, but in the two previous weeks, he ran for just under a combined 300 yards against Palmerton and Salisbury.
At times this season, Northwestern has had a tough time containing their opponents’ running game. Last week, Saucon Valley’s Zach Petiet was able to run for 170 yards in the muck at Tiger Stadium, so stopping – or at least containing – Vass is going to be an interesting battle for the Northwestern defense.
“They like to run the ball,” said Snyder. “So we have to try to keep that to a minimum and put them in situations where it’s going to be tougher for them to run, but it’s tough to do that with Vass.”
After beating the Panthers last week, Tigers receiver/defensive back/returner Trevor Cunningham talked about how big the win was because of what it could do for Northwestern when it comes time to figure out the seedings for districts. A win over Saucon Valley is going to help to boost the Tigers, but you also have to figure in that they already have losses to Palisades and Pen Argyl that are going to figure against them.
A loss to Bangor would be a huge blow to their plans for the offseason, so they can’t afford to let down.
“This [the win over Saucon Valley] was really huge,” said Cunningham after last week’s game. “It’s going to help us a lot for districts, but we have to keep building on that and can’t take anything for granted. We have to keep coming out strong and win games the rest of the way.”