They were the team that just wouldn't go away. The North Schuylkill Spartans were trailing Northwestern throughout their District 11 Championship game, but always found a way to stay in the game. In the end, the Tigers came up with enough big plays to salvage a 28-26 win, gaining their first District 11 Championship since 2002.
The Northwestern Tigers are entering into uncharted territory as they prepare for their first state playoff game since 2002. With that challenge comes facing new teams that they're not familiar with and having to take long bus rides to get to where you need to be. That's the case this week as Northwestern travels to Peckville Friday night to face the Dunmore Bucks (11-1) out of District 2.
There's no denying that when Josh Snyder took over the Northwestern football program, he had a definite plan for the team. Right from the beginning, he was confident that his approach and the changes that he would bring to the program would work.
A year ago, Northwestern and North Schuylkill played for the Eastern Conference Championship, with the Tigers picking up the trophy by virtue of a 19-18 win. This season, the two teams meet again, but this time the trophy up for grabs is the District 11 Championship, something that both teams have had their eye since the end of last year's meeting between the two teams.
Taylor Breininger is having one of those years that a senior football player dreams of having. Recently, in the Tigers rivalry game against Northern Lehigh, Breininger recovered a fumble and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown, took a kick-off return back 90 yards for another touchdown, and just for good measure, caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Frank Dangello. It was just another night on the field for Breininger, who is following in his family's football tradition at Northwestern.
For the first 12 minutes, Northwestern and Palisades could have used just a 50-yard field, because all of the action was on one end of the field, thanks to a strong wind and an even stronger Tigers defense. The result was a quick lead and eventually, a 42-14 win for Northwestern to send them to the district championship game against North Schuylkill.
With Northwestern's win last week, the Tigers earned the No. 2 seed for the first round of the District 11 Class AA playoffs.
To open districts, Northwestern takes on Colonial League foe Palisades (7-3), who interestingly, was Northwestern's bye team this season. The two haven't played since the season opener in 2013 when the Pirates grabbed a 27-15 win over Northwestern.
"I think it's actually a perfect the way it ended up," said coach Josh Snyder. "They're a good football team and a good challenge. New opponents make for a different challenge and it should be a good game."
When Catasauqua and Northwestern wrap up their Colonial League football schedules Friday night, it will be almost like the two teams have never met. After all, since the Tigers went into Alumni Field and knocked off the undefeated Rough Riders 28-27 on an extra point from kicker Brandon Miller last season, Catasauqua graduated 20 of 22 players who started in that game and they have a whole new coaching staff.
Not only is the meeting between Northern Lehigh and Northwestern a big rivalry for the two schools, it's now got extra meaning behind it. The rivalry is now known as "Bo and Brett's Mountain Road Rumble" and has a trophy that goes to the winner. That trophy will spend the next year as the property of the Tigers, who downed Northern Lehigh 42-6. The win clinched a spot in the District 11 playoffs for Northwestern (8-1).
After a strong bounce-back win over Palmerton last week, Northwestern looks to make it two in a row against rival Northern Lehigh. The Bulldogs (5-3) are coming off a 40-7 loss to Southern Lehigh in a game that saw their running game shutdown by a talented Spartan defense.