Tigers break records, top Wilson
Derek Holmes, a 2019 graduate of Northwestern High School, had a memorable athletic career in a number of sports. During his senior football season, he was named a Colonial League First-Team all-star at defensive end and a Second-Team selection at tight end on offense. He scored six touchdowns and record four sacks a season ago.
His younger brother, Justin, is out to make a name for himself as well and add to the family tradition. Saturday’s game against Wilson was a big step in doing just that for the Tiger sophomore.
In just his second game back from a hip injury, Holmes hauled in nine catches for a school-record 217 yards and three touchdowns in Northwestern’s 49-30 victory against Wilson at Smith Field.
“Our offense finally started picking up for most of the game today,” said senior quarterback Deven Bollinger after throwing for five touchdowns. “Justin Holmes, it’s only his second game back this week, and he stepped up.”
Holmes broke the old record of 184 yards set by Trevor Cunningham in 2016. Bollinger threw five touchdowns for the fourth time in his career and tied his school record for most passing touchdowns in a single game.
None were more important than the last Bollinger-to-Holmes connection.
Clinging to a 35-30 lead in the fourth quarter, Northwestern (3-1) faced a third-and-11 in Wilson territory. Bollinger put his trust in Holmes, as the two connected on their third touchdown of the day, a 56-yard bomb that gave the Tigers a bit of breathing room with 5:34 to play.
“They were coming back and it was a close game, and we needed something big there,” Holmes said. “He threw me open pretty much. That was a great ball by Deven.”
“Obviously you want an extra weapon out there,” Bollinger said. “Any time you get an extra weapon on the outside, it makes it a lot easier on me. His length out there is key. He’s 6-2 with long arms, so obviously in the red zone and inside the 30-yard line we throw it to him. He made some big plays for us.”
The two helped the Tiger offense rack up 530 yards of total offense, the second-most in program history.
On Wilson’s next possession, Holmes made his presence felt on the defensive side of the ball. He intercepted a third-down pass from Wilson quarterback Cayden Stem that handed the ball back over to the Tigers’ offense.
Bollinger capped a nine-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown strike to Nick Henry, his third score of the game. That put the game out of reach with 1:12 to play.
“That [interception] felt good,” Holmes said. “It was my first game on defense getting a pick.”
Henry ran for 111 yards and ran in two touchdowns as well. Bollinger paced the Tigers with 122 on the ground.
The seesaw tipped early on for the teams. Behind its home crowd, Wilson (1-3) jumped in front with a 14-7 lead after two Stem-to-Zach Gillen touchdown connections.
Northwestern, though, stuck with the Warriors toe-to-toe. With a first-quarter touchdown already credited to Paul Huff, Bollinger threw his second of the opening quarter when he hit Holmes for a 63-yard strike that tied the game at 14.
“[Holmes] is the backup quarterback, so we spend a lot of time together, and not just throwing routes,” Bollinger said. “We have a good feel for what each other does.”
The Tigers would go on to score four consecutive touchdowns to increase their lead to 35-14 midway through the third quarter after Henry plunged into the end zone from four yards out. He also scored from two yards out to end the Tigers’ scoring in the first half.
Wilson had an answer. Damian Simpson returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to get the Warriors within two touchdowns. A 29-yard field goal from Lorenzo Sigue inched Wilson even closer, and a 27-yard touchdown pass from Stem to Dylan Goldsworth got the Warriors within 35-30 with 8:59 to play after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
“I think they were mixing it up,” Bollinger said. “They were running short, short, short, and then they’ll throw one deep on us. That’s something we need to clean up this week. The first two weeks we were rough in the pass defense. Last week we were a little better.”
CORRECTION: Last week’s article about Northwestern’s football win over Palisades gave an incorrect player credit for the game’s first touchdown. Tiger senior Jayden Allen caught the first touchdown in the game.