Tigers host SV on Friday
For the past couple weeks, Northwestern has had somewhat of a lull in its schedule. The Tigers downed Palisades and Wilson on the road and then returned to Tiger Stadium to beat Bangor and Palmerton the past couple of weeks, winning the three games by a combined score of 167-47.
Now comes the fun part, back-to-back games against two teams that the Tigers are battling for the Colonial League title as they travel to Southern Lehigh (6-0) this week and then return home to host Saucon Valley (5-1). The two games will go a long way in deciding the league championship, but as usual, Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder is focused only on Southern Lehigh.
“We take it one game at a time and take advantage of every opportunity,” said Snyder. “When you’re at this point of the season, more than halfway through, you start to see what teams are made of and who is in the upper echelon and I think we’ve proven we belong there, and so have they with their undefeated record.”
The Spartans are one of just three undefeated teams in District 11, with Class A Williams Valley and Class 6A Easton being the other two.
Things have come very easy to Southern Lehigh this season, with the Spartans’ closest contest coming last week at Northern Lehigh when they won by 13 points. They crushed Notre Dame (Green Pond) 62-27 and then came back the next week to beat Bangor 49-0. Over the past three weeks, they’ve downed Bangor, Palisades and Northern Lehigh by a combined score of 119-28.
“They’re strong at pretty much all points and they don’t have many weaknesses,” is how Snyder assesses this week’s opponent. “Offensively speaking, they’re a ground-and-pound team, although they’ve thrown it a little more as of late to try to soften the defense, but they like to gain their yards on the ground.
“They have a couple of big, strong physical linemen and the Asher Smith kid is a really tough kid to bring down. He’s big and physical and has a good group of guys surrounding him.”
Smith, a senior, is a force both offensively and defensively. Last week against Northern Lehigh, he ran for over 100 yards and rumbled into the end zone three times. On defense, Smith pulled in two interceptions to help the Spartans hold off a challenge from the Bulldogs.
Snyder is prepared for the challenge and plans on giving Southern Lehigh some different looks in an attempt to keep them off pace.
“Defensively, we have a couple different personnel packages for them this week and have a lot going in to try to confuse them and get a couple stops,” Snyder said. “Offensively, we’ve got a couple wrinkles in this week to try to attack them.
“We see a couple things we may be able to take advantage of. We’ve made things pretty complicated this week, but yet have a lot of the basics to draw from. It’s the luxury of having a senior-oriented lineup.”
Southern Lehigh will play right into the mouths of the Tigers if they look to keep the ball on the ground.
Northwestern allows an average of just 2.8 yards per carry this season and has given up just three rushing touchdowns. Through the air, Northwestern has allowed an average of 6.8 yards per pass, but has at times been caught for big plays through the passing game.
While Northwestern generally balances its offense, when the Tigers find something that works they stick with it.
Last week, quarterback Deven Bollinger threw for 277 yards against Palmerton and the week before against Bangor, it was the ground game that ruled with both Bollinger and running back Nick Henry approaching 100 yards rushing as the Tigers ran for 237 yards.
“If we knock them off, it will be an exciting race to the finish in the league and both teams are cognizant of that,” said Snyder. “It’s going to be a war against them and we’re ready for that and excited for it really.
“We’ve seen a little more excitement in practice and I think the players have stepped it up a little bit in practice to get ready for this one.”