Tigers fall in overtime
Northwestern had the defending league champs on the ropes Friday night. The Tigers took an early led and never let Palisades in front through four quarters.
In the end, they came one play away from handing the Pirates their first Colonial League loss since Sept. 16 of 2016. When the Tigers failed to convert their two-point conversion attempt in overtime, Palisades had it’s 18th straight league win, 35-34.
While the loss certainly stings, the Tigers know didn’t play their best Friday night, but they still nearly beat a very good team.
“There’s no such thing as moral victories,” said Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder. “That being said, one game isn’t going to make or break our season. We played a heck of a football team. You’re going to have ups and downs. Losing by a point isn’t the worst thing that is going to happen to you.”
When Palisades got the ball first in overtime and scored, Snyder already knew he was going for the win if his team got into the end zone. Four plays later, Deven Bollinger scampered in for a one-yard touchdown. But the two-point conversion pass didn’t find receiver Justin Rodda.
“As soon as we hit overtime I said if we get the ball second and score we’re going for two,” said Snyder. “There was no need to prolong the game. We felt we had a good play based on the defense and the coverage.”
Overtime was the first time Palisades had led the whole game.
Northwestern scored on its first drive of the night when Bollinger found Tyler Lobach for a 15-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead with 6:17 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers stopped Palisades on their first three drives, allowing just three first downs while forcing two punts and intercepting a pass.
But after Northwestern got its second touchdown, a 1-yard Bollinger run that capped an 11-play drive, the Palisades running game finally got moving.
The Pirates went 42 yards in six plays, with Christian Gretzinger’s 22-yard run setting up quarterback Ethan Brader’s 1-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 14-7 with 5:03 left in the first half.
Palisades seized on the momentum, forcing the Tigers’ first three and out of the night then mounting a 70-yard touchdown drive that included four runs by Gretzinger, who carried the ball 24 times for 134 yards in the game.
“We started playing some football,” said Pirate head coach Kevin Ronalds. “We still felt we could run the football. We started going up and down the field. We had momentum, but we lost momentum to start the second half again.”
The Tigers opened the second half with a Rodda kick-off return that put them in Palisades’ territory. A Rodda 27-yard run got them to the 17-yard line. Six plays later Bollinger (21 carries, 108 yards) scampered in for a 1-yard touchdown to put his team back in front, 21-14.
The Pirates answered late in the third quarter when they finished a 76-yard drive with a five-yard Gretzinger run. The scoring play came on a fourth-and-goal from the Tiger 5-yard line and tied the game at 21-21 with no time left in the third quarter.
The Tigers responded with a 12-play touchdown drive as Rodda hit pay dirt from four yards out for a 28-21 lead.
But the Pirates’ Ethan Miller took the ensuing kick off 82 yards to the 3-yard line. Two plays later Brader was in the end zone and the game was tied.
“You can’t pin that game on one play,” said Snyder. “There were many plays during the course of that game, little things that we left on the field.”
After a Northwestern three and out, Palisades got the ball with 3:25 left on the clock and moved from its own 12-yard line to the Tigers’ 19 before a missed field goal ended regulation.
The Pirates got the ball first in overtime. Brader ran for seven yards on first down and Gretzinger took it the other three yards on the next play.
The Tigers needed all four downs as Bollinger was stopped from a yard out on third down then ran it in on his last opportunity.
“I don’t think the environment got the best of us,” said Snyder. “I just think you need to make one or two more plays than the other team and we didn’t do that, whether it’s a missed tackle or a dropped ball or a bad pass.
“There’s no such thing as moral victories. That being said, one game isn’t going to make or break our season.”
While Gretzinger was the leading rusher in the game, the Tigers’ Nick Henry put up 105 yards on 14 carries to up his season totals to 394 yards on 55 totes.
Bollinger had negative rushing yards in each of the past two season, including 60 carries for -44 yards last year. This year he’s now carried the ball 62 times for 324 yards.
The Tigers have now played in two overtime games this season after beating Notre Dame (Green Pond) in OT to open the season.