Northwestern Press

Friday, June 5, 2020

Tigers bounced back from season-opening loss

Thursday, November 21, 2019 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

The Northwestern Lehigh football season got underway with a disappointing loss to Notre Dame (Green Pond) on the road.

From there though, the Tigers got on a roll that carried them to a share of the Colonial League championship and deep into districts where only a pair of bad calls kept them from reaching the district championship.

Over the next five weeks, Northwestern ran through the schedule by beating its opponents by a combined score of 205-64 as the Tigers put themselves back into position to battle for a league championship.

After that came a tough part of the schedule with games against undefeated Southern Lehigh, followed by matchups with Saucon Valley and Northern Lehigh.

“Our guys bounced back pretty quickly from that first loss against Notre Dame and we just got right back on track,” said Tiger head coach Josh Snyder. “The team realized that they let one get away there and that they had to be better every week after that. We always focus on the game ahead of us and don’t look back or ahead and that worked well for us this season.”

The trip to Southern Lehigh ended with a 36-34 win over the Spartans that gave both teams a 6-1 record. From there, the tough schedule continued, but Snyder and his players refused to watch the scoreboard to see what Southern Lehigh was doing, focusing instead on just taking care of what they could control.

Against Saucon Valley, Northwestern took a 36-0 win and then went into their rivalry game against Northern Lehigh still tied atop the Colonial League standings.

After taking a 17-0 lead, Northern Lehigh looked like they were going to knock off the Tigers. At halftime, Snyder stressed to his players that they were better than what they showed in the first half and challenged them to turn things around over the final two quarters. They did just that and were able to walk away with a 28-24 win.

The final week of the season saw Northwestern down Catasauqua 47-0, finishing the regular season 9-1.

Southern Lehigh also won out after its meeting with Northwestern. The two teams finished tied for the Colonial League championship, which does not take regular season meetings between teams into consideration for breaking such a tie.

“We said all along that we at least had bragging rights,” said Snyder. “They were undefeated and we were the only team to beat them, so to me that at least gives us bragging rights even though it goes down as co-champions. I think our players look at it that way, too.”

In districts, Northwestern rolled over Lehighton 54-14 in the quarterfinals and then met Allentown Central Catholic in the semifinals at Tiger Stadium. Northwestern came out quickly, but the Vikings hung around and made a big comeback in the second half.

A key defensive interference call on a fourth-and-nine gave the Vikings new life and they went on to take a 23-22 lead with just 11 seconds left to play. From there, Northwestern put together a quick strike to Justin Holmes, who was brought down at the Vikings 19-yard line.

Snyder called for a timeout and was initially told he had one second left in the game, but the officials huddled and decided time had run out, ending the season for the Tigers.

“That’s a tough way for a season to end,” admits Snyder. “We did everything right and put ourselves in a position to win, but we never got that final shot.”

Northwestern will be hit hard by graduation, losing pretty much their entire offensive and defensive lines along with quarterback Deven Bollinger, a four-year starter who leaves as the school’s all-time passing leader along with records in several other offensive categories.

“We’ll lose a lot of experienced players and a lot of leadership,” said Snyder. “We’re going to have to work to fill those holes, but we’ve got some young players who got experience this season and a good class of guys who will be seniors and team leaders next season, so we should be able to put things together.”