NWL pulls away from Lehighton
Twenty-eight unanswered points from four seconds remaining in the second quarter until the end of the game helped Northwestern fight off Lehighton on Friday with the Tigers coming away with the 35-14 Schuylkill League/Colonial League Gold Division victory over the Indians.
The game served as a prime example of a tale of two halves, as the Tribe (1-4) were able to take advantage of two Northwestern (4-1) fumbles in the first half.
The first Tigers’ miscue came on their opening possession, as they put together an impressive drive, using their ground and pound attack to drive the ball down to the Lehighton 13-yard line. But a fumble at the two-yard line just before the Northwestern rusher got his knee down off a nice option play gave the ball to the Indians.
Lehighton would not be able to score off the turnover, but it kept the Tigers out of the end zone when they were threatening.
With 7:55 to go in the second quarter, and with the game tied at 7-7, an attempted reverse at the Tigers’ 45-yard line by Northwestern resulted in a mishandling of the ball and Lehighton was able to come up with it. This time, the Indians were able to convert, putting together a nine play, 49-yard drive that was capped off by a hard-charging eight-yard run by Ethan Buchert to give Lehighton a 14-7 advantage with 2:08 left to play in the first half.
“I’m really proud of the way our kids played in the first half. So far this season, the second quarter has sort have been a no-show quarter for us, so it was good to see us compete there. But they turned the ball over there a few times in the first half and we were able to capitalize, and that’s what you need to do,” said Lehighton head coach Tom McCarroll. “Those are the things that you need to do if you want to beat a team the caliber of Northwestern and we were able to do those things in the first half, but unfortunately we weren’t able to carry that over into the second half.”
With 2:08 remaining and with Lehighton receiving the ball to start the third quarter, the Tigers ensuing possession after the Indians’ second score would prove to be their most crucial of the night.
Northwestern put together an impressive two-minute drive, going 56 yards in 10 plays that culminated in a Cade Christopher two-yard run with just four seconds remaining in the half.
“That score before the half was huge for us. Coach (Dave) Kerschner is a wizard at calling plays in our two-minute (drill) and calling the time outs and managing the clock, and the kids did a good job executing that. I think we showed good composure there and we never got too panicked, got out of bounds a few times and then we scored with four seconds, which worked out well,” said Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder. “We don’t score there, then they’re up by a score and getting the ball to start the second half and the momentum stays with them.”
The Tigers score before the half didn’t steal Lehighton’s momentum, but it did even it out a bit, and the Northwestern defense then came to play to start the third. The Tigers’ defense forced a punt on the Indians first possession and then got a pivotal stop on fourth and one at the Indians 44-yard line on Lehighton’s second possession to shut the Tribe out in the third frame.
Northwestern, which dominated in the run game, added 14 points in the third on a Dalton Clymer 7-yard rush and a 6-yard hookup from Christopher to Clymer.
“Our defensive coordinators did a really nice job at the half, making some adjustments. We were able to get an extra guy in the box to help against the run and I thought our defensive line did a nice job of getting up in the gaps in the second half,” said Snyder. “We got some negative plays and that got them out of their rhythm and then our offense was just really good all night.”
Northwestern forced Lehighton to punt two more times in the fourth, and tacked on another score on a 3-yard Clymer plunge.
From the start, Northwestern committed to the run and moved the ball on the ground. The Tigers rushed for 411 yards at 8.2 yards per carry, with Clymer and Christopher combining for 301 yards rushing and four rushing TDs.
he Tigers defense was impressive in the second half as they forced the Indians to punt three times and turned them over on downs once, while allowing just two first downs.