NWL beats Blue Mtn.
The trend on kickoffs nowadays is to pooch the ball near the sideline to prevent returners from breaking long runs or to possibly create a turnover.
Blue Mountain followed that path the first time they kicked off to Northwestern last Friday evening, but for some reason the Eagles got away from it the second time.
Needless to say, they paid the price.
With the Tigers clinging to a 6-3 lead after a hard-fought first half, Blue Mountain made the mistake of kicking deep to open the third quarter.
Cade Christopher got to the ball quickly and found a lane. From there, he broke down the left sideline for an 81-yard touchdown. That special teams play sparked the home team and Northwestern eventually pulled away for a 30-3 victory.
“I was definitely surprised,” said Christopher. “We thought they were going to bloop it. They kicked it to me, and I just saw a hole and it was daylight from there.
“That gave us some confidence and some momentum. We were able to dominate on offense and defense after that. Everybody picked it up after that.”
Following the score, the Tigers’ defense forced a punt and gave the ball back to their offense.
Four minutes later, Christopher was in the end zone again. An 80-yard drive, highlighted by freshman Mason Bollinger’s 39-yard pass to Christopher, ended with the senior’s 16-yard burst to pay dirt and a 22-3 lead.
“I’m always surprised anybody kicks it to Cade,” said Tigers head coach Josh Snyder. “Northern Lehigh punted to him last week and (he ran it back). He also had a nice kickoff return last week. They kicked it to him again tonight. Hey, I appreciate it. I hope teams kick it to him every chance they get.
“We knew we were getting the ball coming out (in the second half). We went in the locker room and talked about a couple things that were working in the first half, talked about how we were going to move some pieces around. Of course, coming out and getting that touchdown just gave us a huge burst of momentum. Then we got a defensive stop and the offense gets it and punches another one in. Now you’re up three scores. It was huge.”
Bollinger, who took snaps at quarterback to allow Christopher to move to running back, was key on the game’s final score that sealed the victory. He hauled in a 49-yard play-action pass from Christopher that gave the Tigers a first-and goal. Christopher, who also had two interceptions on defense, went in from six yards out with 4:12 to play to help the Tigers improve to 2-1.
“He didn’t take a single snap on varsity this week at practice at quarterback, so I’m proud of how he came in and handled the offense,” said Snyder. “We were mix and matching tonight. We had three different guys taking snaps at quarterback and two different guys throwing the ball.
“Tonight I said, ‘Heck on it, I’m just going to throw the freshman in at quarterback and move Cade to running back and Clymer to fullback and jostle some pieces around and see what happens.’ We sort of found a rhythm there moving those three pieces around.”
While the offense responded to that mix-and-matching, the defense didn’t allow any points after the game’s opening drive - although an injury to Blue Mountain’s starting quarterback Will Jacobson on the second play from scrimmage didn’t help the Eagles’ cause.
“We were able to somehow, someway bend but don’t break a little bit,” said Snyder. “It’s a shame their quarterback went down. It probably would have been a little bit different of a game with him in there.”
The Tigers were anxious to get back on the field after their loss to Northern Lehigh a week earlier.
“This game was a redemption game,” said Christopher. “Last week we felt like we didn’t play our best game.”
“It was pretty miserable for the last week and a half,” said Snyder. “The mood around the locker room, the coaching staff, my house was not very good. Usually by Tuesday it subsides a little bit but it was really a tough one to shake off. I was just happy to get out here and get another game rolling.”
The Eagles drove down the field on their opening possession, but had to settle for a field goal. Northwestern tallied with 2:35 left until halftime on a 1-yard run by Dalton Clymer. The drive started after Blaine Snyder’s interception.