Coming into their match up with Notre Dame in the District 11 Class AA Championship, Northwestern coach Josh Snyder knew that the team that protected the football the best would likely be wearing gold medals at the end of the night. And he was right.
Five turnovers by the Tigers helped Notre Dame take a 32-22 win over Northwestern and the district championship, which was won by Northwestern last season.
It was the same formula that worked for Northwestern in the District 11 boys soccer title game. The Tigers played superb defense and made the most of a few scoring opportunities to beat Gettysburg 2-0 Saturday and advance to the PIAA Class AA semifinals.
“I said at halftime that the two things that are going to win this game are heart and execution,” said Northwestern head coach Nate Hunsicker. “We had two quality goal-scoring opportunities at the end there and we executed on them and that was the difference in the game.”
The first week of the football season holds promise for a lot of teams. Now, nearly three months later, most of those teams have fallen by the wayside, with the exception of a few of the strongest teams.
In the Class AA ranks, Notre Dame (Green Pond) and defending district champ Northwestern met in week one, when a rejuvenated Notre Dame squad, complete with reinforcements from the closing of Pius X High School, sent a message.
You can call them opportunistic. Northwestern took advantage of early mistakes by Salisbury and came away with a 27-14 win over the Falcons in the District 11 semifinal game at Tiger Stadium.
On the opening drive, it was a bad snap on a punt that wound up netting just six yards to give the Tigers good starting position, which led to an early 7-0 lead.
Parkland coach Al Haddad has two traditions with his team. The first comes just prior to the game when the starting lineups are announced he and Regan Allsop jump as high as they can to give each other a high-five. After the game, he hands out the inaptly named fun-size Snickers bars to his players.
After his high-five prior to the district championship game, Haddad turned to his coaches and said “I only get to do that four more times,” referring to the four games that the team would have to play to become state champions.
Northwestern’s road to the District 11 boys soccer championship didn’t start this season. It began last year with a young team that improved throughout the season and played its best in late fall.
This year’s team, with most of last year’s roster still intact, picked up right where last year’s team left off. Then went one step further.
The Tigers earned their first district boys soccer title since 2004 when they topped Salisbury, 2-0 last Thursday at Whitehall High School.
Northwestern head coach Nate Hunsicker had reason to be concerned entering what was the fourth game his team would play against Salisbury this season.
Magnifying those concerns was the fact that this one was for the District 11 Class AA championship and a berth in the PIAA State Tournament.
The Tigers, now 22-1 on the year, suffered their lone loss to the Falcons during the regular season.
Northwestern’s opponents tend to focus on striker JD Haaf, and for good reason.
In leading the Tigers to Colonial League and District 11 Class AA titles, the senior amassed a single-season best 43 goals, putting him less than a handful away from setting the school’s career scoring record.
But in the first round of the PIAA Boys’ Soccer Championships, Northwestern showed District 1 champion Pottsgrove that Haaf’s not the only one other teams need to be concerned about.
For a long time, Northwestern was used to playing a 10-game football schedule and then handing in their uniforms and moving on with the school year. Now though, things are different. The Tigers not only expect to play more than 10 games, they expect to play a lot of extra games.
Besides parents, coaches and friends gathered together for yet another trip to Hershey, there was another presence occupying Northwestern’s tent. A group of alumni runners, which included Lindsay Kerr and Rachele Cerrone, among others, was also in attendance to cheer on their successors at Saturday’s PIAA Cross Country Championships.
There’s no question the current group of Tigers put together a performance even those graduates were impressed with, led by freshman Maddie Consuelos.