Northwestern falls to Panthers
For a young Northwestern team, the worst thing that can happen is to fall behind early to a good team.
That’s exactly what happened Friday night when an 81-yard return on the opening kickoff set up an early score for Saucon Valley.
On the next Tigers drive, a fumble gave the Panthers a short field, helping them to go up 14-0 just over four-minutes into the game. Saucon Valley (4-2) turned the fast start into a 49-21 win over Northwestern (2-4).
Alston Wolfe had a big night for the Panthers, rushing for 179 yards and four touchdowns on just nine carries for Saucon Valley.
Wolfe was also the one who got the game started with an 81-yard kick return to the Tigers’ 11-yard line. Ian Csisek, filling in for the injured Zach Petiet, finished with 155 yards and two TDs.
“I made a mistake kicking it deep,” said Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder. “I thought we could get it in the end zone and the Wolfe kid just went crazy from the opening kick right up until they took him out, so that was tough.
“We made a lot of mistakes early on, with not lining up correctly and the penalty, so we hurt ourselves.”
Finding a consistent ground game continued to be difficult for Northwestern as it rushed for just 69 yards in the game against the Panthers. The Tigers came in with momentum, looking to extend a two-game win streak to put themselves back into the hunt for a district playoff spot, but the early start by Saucon Valley put them on their heels and they were never able to click offensively.
“They were the better team and I knew going in that we had to play our best game,” said Snyder. “We still weren’t able to run the ball and that’s a little disappointing. We don’t have a break away running back. We’ve got guys who are tough and give us everything, but they’re not break out running backs, so we tried to mix it up and do it that way.”
The Tigers showed glimpses of how they can play, with the best snapshot coming in the second quarter. Down 28-0, the Tigers put together an eight-play, 75-yard drive to make it a 28-7 game. They used the momentum and caught the Panthers napping with an on-side kick on the ensuing kick-off to start the drive at their own 48-yard line.
Deven Bollinger hit Caleb Clymer on a 29-yard hookup to start the drive, but a fourth-and-three pass fell incomplete and the Tigers turned the ball over on downs at the Panthers 16.
Looking to spark his team, Jayden Allen returned the opening kick-off of the second half 45 yards to the Saucon Valley 35-yard line. Bollinger hit Ryan Haas for 30 yards on the first play and three plays later, Phil Dangello went in from three yards out to make it 42-14.
Bollinger struck again with 4:20 left to play when he hit Allen with a 15-yard touchdown pass to close the game to 49-21. Bollinger threw for 175 yards on the night, completing 10 of the 25 passes he attempted, with one interception.
“Our passing game is doing pretty well and we threw the ball fairly well tonight,” said Snyder.
Northwestern hosts Bangor next week as it looks to draw back to being within one game of 500 on the season. Snyder believes the team can still pick up some big wins over their final four games of the season.
“We have Bangor and we’ll see if we can get a win there back at home,” he said. “We have to regroup a little bit and keep trying to get some consistency and if we do that, we can surprise some people late in the year and put some things together.”