Tigers top Bulldogs in annual rivalry game
After establishing its running game as a potent weapon through the early going, Northwestern has seen teams focus on stopping the run. That approach would work if the Tigers were a one-dimensional team, but junior quarterback Deven Bollinger has shown that he can get the ball to his receivers. He threw for 251 yards in a 35-7 win over Northern Lehigh last Friday night.
“Earlier in the year, we showed that we can just run the ball,” said Snyder. “But lately, teams are taking that away from us by putting extra guys in the box, and tonight they had a linebacker walking into the box, so we weren’t going to run into that. With the emergence of our receivers, we can break out of our normal run game and go a different way.”
It was appropriate that senior Ryan Haas came up big against the Bulldogs, since the senior players, cheerleaders and band members were saluted prior to the game for senior night at Tiger Stadium.
Haas recovered a fumble on Northern Lehigh’s first drive of the game, which led to Northwestern’s first score of the night when the offensive line gave Bollinger an eternity to throw the ball and he found Tyler Lobach wide open in the end zone.
Later in the game, Haas picked off a Gage Hunsicker pass in the end zone, killing Northern Lehigh’s longest drive of the night. Lobach, also a senior, recovered a fumble later in the game and Carson Steigerwalt pulled in an interception on Northern Lehigh’s final possession of the night.
“He’s an unselfish guy and with the emergence of a couple of other pieces, he hasn’t been at the forefront of things,” said Snyder of Haas. “But he leads the team in interceptions and always seems to be around the ball. He had a huge hit on our sideline on one of their kids and he gave us momentum a couple of different times. He’s a guy that does a lot of the little things for us and goes unnoticed.”
Northwestern (7-2) had the Bulldogs reeling right from the opening drive when Northern Lehigh was flagged for early penalties and then Haas recovered the fumble. Throughout the game, Northern Lehigh made mistakes that killed drives or allowed extra yardage for the Tigers. Many of those mistakes were forced by Northwestern.
A Northern Lehigh unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Northwestern’s second possession extended the drive and helped the Tigers get into the end zone to open up a 14-0 lead. They scored on their third straight drive when Bollinger hit Nick Henry, who broke a number of tackles in his battle to the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass to go up 21-0.
Northwestern made it four touchdowns in four possessions after Lobach’s fumble recovery led to a five-play 44-yard drive capped by a three-yard run by Lobach.
Henry added a 10-yard TD run midway through the third quarter to go up 35-0 and on the next possession, Northern Lehigh found the end zone, going 70 yards in seven plays with Dale Wanamaker dashing over from 10 yards out.
Snyder gave his own salute to his senior players who have become a huge part of the program’s success over the past four seasons.
“They’ve really played well and they’ve also been huge in helping guys like Deven [Bollinger] to develop as players,” said Snyder. “It’s nice when you have a group of players who you have a good relationship both on the field and off, and great to see them succeed as athletes and students.”
With the win, the Tigers will likely host a District 11 playoff game at Tiger Stadium the first weekend in November. They need a win over Catasauqua Friday night to cement the odds of playing at home at least one more time this season.