Tigers fall in D-11 semifinal
There are times when a team can look back on a loss and pinpoint exactly where things went wrong. For Northwestern Lehigh, it’s the second quarter of its 42-21 loss to Saucon Valley. Ryan Haas had caught a big 58-yard touchdown pass from Deven Bollinger to put the Tigers up 14-7. On Saucon Valley’s next possession, the Tigers shut them down on a big fourth-down play to give Northwestern the ball with time winding down in the first quarter.
That’s where things went wrong.
After Haas’ touchdown catch, the Northwestern offense generated just one first down and 15 total yards of offense over the final seconds of the first quarter and through the second quarter.
“The wheels just kind of came off for us in the second quarter and our offense was out of sync,” Tiger head coach Josh Snyder said. “I don’t know what happened there for us, but we couldn’t generate any offense and it wound up being our downfall.”
Meanwhile, Saucon Valley kept riding running back Ian Csicsek, who dashed in for a seven-yard touchdown run, following a 21-yard run by Curtis Clifford, and the Panthers led 21-14 at halftime.
Northwestern got off to its usual quick start and scored on its opening drive thanks to the offensive line giving Bollinger plenty of time to find Justin Rodda on a 62-yard catch-and-run that put Northwestern up early. Connor de Wit nailed the extra point and the Tigers were up 7-0.
Unable to move the ball on the ground, Northwestern stuck to the passing game. For Saucon Valley, it was the opposite story. Quarterback Dante Mahaffey couldn’t find anything that worked in the air, so the Panthers just stuck to the ground game, primarily going to Csicsek, who carried the ball 37 times for 256 yards to leave him 236 yards shy of the 3,000 mark on the season. Csicsek scored five touchdowns and ran for a two-point conversion in the game.
“I thought early on we had him [Csicsek] pretty well boxed in and they went to a couple other guys to run the ball,” said Snyder. “Eventually though, their line wore us down a bit and he started to find some holes and we just couldn’t stop him.”
Csicsek had touchdown runs of 14, 7, 20, 6 and 31 yards on the night for the Panthers.
As the Tigers came out of the locker room at halftime, they looked to reestablish their offense, but quickly found themselves further behind when the Panthers took the opening drive of the second half methodically down the field. Not surprisingly, it was Csicsek doing much of the heavy lifting, including finishing off the drive with a 20-yard gallop into the end zone. The missed extra-point left Saucon Valley up 27-14. On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Saucon Valley again got on the board and relied on Csicsek to run in for the two-point conversion and go up 35-14.
Bollinger capped a 12-play drive with the Tigers only rushing touchdown of the night on the first of just two Northwestern possessions in the final 12:00 of the game.
Saucon Valley faces Bethlehem Catholic for the District 11 championship Saturday night at Nazareth High School. The Panthers will be playing in their fifth straight District 11 championship game.