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NW advances to D-11 semi

Injuries are a big part of any football season. Sometimes, teams avoid them and get through their schedule unscathed.

For a while, it looked like Northwestern Lehigh may do just that, but in recent weeks, the Tigers have lost two key members of what was called their three-headed monster of Justin Holmes, Justin Rodda and Nick Henry.

First, Rodda went down with a clavicle injury and Friday night Henry finished a run by limping out of bounds after pulling a quad muscle. Just as Tigers’ coach Josh Snyder covered Rodda’s injury by moving players around, he did the same thing Friday night when Henry went down and Northwestern went on to beat Lehighton 54-19 in the quarterfinals of the District 11 football playoffs.

To take over for Henry, it was Dalton Clymer who took on an expanded role and finished the night with 77 yards on 10 carries as Northwestern put together a total of 593 yards of total offense on the night. Holmes played a big role in the offense by throwing for 266 yards and three touchdowns.

The highlight throw of the night came when Holmes scrambled and found Taylor Wikert open downfield and hit him with a perfect strike for a 66-yard touchdown. Holmes also worked some magic when he found Cody Hallock and got the ball to him even though it was tipped by a defender. The catch was the first of Hallock’s varsity career and went for a 54-yard touchdown.

“We always tell our guys that they have to be ready and they’ve done a good job of that,” said Snyder. “Clymer has gotten some time on the field and we use him in practice to spell Nick [Henry], so he’s familiar with what we do and he did a nice job tonight.”

Clymer ran for a 12-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter after Northwestern Lehigh took over on downs at the Lehighton 43-yard line. The five-play drive saw Clymer carry the ball four times to pick up 34 yards.

“I was shaking a little bit, but getting into the second half and even late first half, I started to get used to it and I really started rolling.” said Clymer.

Throughout the season, Northwestern has given up early points to opponents and it was Lehighton that scored on their first drive, covering 68 yards in seven plays.

Richard Fronheiser completed three passes on the drive, including a toss to Hunter Crum, who got into the end zone from 39-yards out. A bad snap spoiled the extra-point attempt, but the Indians had an early 6-0 edge.

Northwestern scored on back-to-back drives with Holmes completing the highlight reel throw to Wikert to cap the Tigers first drive of the game and then Henry went in from three yards out to stretch the lead to 13-6, with Northwestern unable to convert a two-point attempt.

The Indians had a drive interrupted when on a second-and-eight, Fronheiser looked to throw and was picked off by Reed Conrey, who returned the ball 34 yards to the Lehighton 48, setting up another touchdown drive by the Tigers that ended with Christopher completing a seven yard run as Northwestern went up 26-6. Early in the game it looked like Christopher had a touchdown run of 77 yards, but the play was called back by a holding call.

“Conrey had that interception and it was pretty big for us because they were kind of knocking on the door and we were able to turn that around and get seven points on our side,” said Snyder. “It always kills some momentum when you can shut down a drive like that.”

Lehighton struck back just before the half with Fronheiser engineering a drive from the Northwestern 43-yard line. J.J. McDowell had five carries, but twice in the drive, Fronheiser hit Zack Hunsicker, including on a 16-yard catch-and-run that made it a 26-13 game with 22-seconds until halftime.

Northwestern again put together back-to-back touchdown drives in the second half to stretch their lead to 40-13 but again, the Indians struck back. A 73-yard drive ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Fronheiser to Crum. The extra point attempt was blocked, leaving Lehighton trailing 40-19.

PRESS PHOTO BY BOB FORD Northwestern's Cade Christopher (8) reaches out to haul in a pass against Lehighton.
PRESS PHOTO BY BOB FORD Northwestern quarterback Justin Holmes straight-arms Lehighton defender JJ McDowell.