Football hosts Bangor for EC championship
It was just four weeks ago when Northwestern and Bangor battled at Tiger Stadium, but a lot has changed for both teams since then. Back then, Bangor was running the ball with inconsistent success, but stuck with the ground game. Northwestern’s ground game was the worst in the Colonial League in terms of stats, and still is, and the Tigers were throwing the ball more than they would have hoped. The Tigers (4-6) were also battling with a lot of injuries.
Now, the two teams meet for the Eastern Conference championship, and Bangor (4-6) has perfected its running game behind running back Garrett DeBoer, who gained 93 yards on the ground in the first meeting of the two teams. In the last two games, DeBoer, a junior, has run for 466 yards and three touchdowns in wins over Pen Argyl and Wilson.
“They’ve found an identity on offense and have really been pounding the ball,” said Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder. “Their running back [DeBoer] has had some really big games and they’ve been using the play action off of that. I think it’s just that they’ve settled in to what they’re good at doing.”
Northwestern has gotten healthy and been able to put some new gadgets into their arsenal, including the wildcat. Initially, Phil Dangello was the lone wildcat for Northwestern, but when he missed a game at Southern Lehigh, freshman Nick Henry took over and he handled the job well, giving Snyder a couple of options out of the formation.
In the first meeting, the Tigers played well on special teams and gave themselves short fields to work with on offense. The result was a couple of early touchdowns that put them ahead 14-0 and made the Slaters change their game plan. From there, Bangor’s defense toughened up, but so did the Northwestern defense and the game ended 14-0. Now, both coaches are faced with the dilemma of how to scheme for their meeting this week.
“It’s the first time in a while that we’ve had to face a team more than once in a season,” said Snyder. “We had to do that with Palisades and Saucon Valley a few years ago. It’s tough to beat the same team twice in a season, but I think as a staff, we do a pretty good job of tweaking things and learning from previous games, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Northwestern had hoped to come into this game with a .500 record, but Catasauqua pulled off an upset in the regular season finale, winning 21-18 in the last minute of the game by picking off a pass from Dangello and returning it 80 yards for the winning score.
The good news is that the team appears to have put that behind them and has returned ready to win a championship by beating their Colonial League rival, Bangor.
“In the locker room before practice it was as spirited as I’ve seen it and we got out and got after it,” said Snyder. “There was a little extra energy being that it’s a playoff week. We’ve played at least 11 games five years in a row now, so some of these guys have been a part of that and they don’t take it for granted. They’re excited about having another home game in particular, so everything is positive and we’re excited.”
Snyder took the blame for the loss last week because of his play calling and felt bad for the seniors who had their senior night blemished by the loss. Snyder is hoping to make it up to them by orchestrating a win that would turn their senior season into a championship season, which would be impressive after an 0-3 start to the season and a myriad of injuries and players missing games.
While Snyder believes Bangor has found its stride, he believes his team has done the same and is playing better football than when the two teams met during the regular season.
“We were pretty good last game at stopping the run and we made them throw the ball because they were playing from behind when we got up 14-0 on them early,” he said. “We’re doing some different things with some of our guys in the backfield and trying to spark our game and that’s helped us.”