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Tigers top ND in D-11 semi

Northwestern football head coach Josh Snyder and Notre Dame Green Pond coach Phil Stambaugh were teammates at Lehigh University during their college playing careers. Like two former teammates swapping war stories, Snyder pulled out a page from the old Lehigh playbook, with the codename “Harvard.”

It was a two-point conversion play that worked well in college and with a little adjustment, Snyder converted it to a play for his team. The play turned out to be critical when it was used to tie the game at 21-21 in the third quarter. From there, Northwestern (10-2) went on for a 35-34 win and a shot at a district championship next week against North Schuylkill.

The play followed a rapid fire turn of events in the third quarter that saw Notre Dame (9-3) quarterback Danny Darno go in from a yard out to finish off a 16-play drive, and with the extra point, the Crusaders went up 21-13.

On the ensuing kickoff, Cade Christopher took a reverse handoff from Mason Bollinger and went 82 yards for a touchdown. Needing a two-point conversion to tie, Snyder dusted off the old Harvard play that left senior Austin Sosnovik open in the end zone.

“Phil and I ran that play back in college and we dusted that one off from about 2016 or 2017 when we ran it here and it worked,” said Snyder of the play. “You look like a genius when it works and not so much when it doesn’t, but I was willing to make some risky decisions in order to give our kids a chance to win.”

In addition to the touchdown on the kickoff return, Christopher had a big offensive night, picking up rushing touchdowns of 38 and nine yards in the game and throwing a touchdown pass when he hooked up with Sosnovik on a 38-yard strike. On the night, Christopher rushed for 192 yards, scored three touchdowns, and threw for a fourth. Christopher did much of his damage during a wild third quarter that saw both teams score every time they had the ball, producing 36 points in the 15-minute span.

“Honestly, it was really fun,” said Christopher of the wild game. “We knew it was going to be a battle and we worked all week for it. We just had to keep grinding and we did that and came out with the win.”

With the score tied at 21, Darno found an opening off the right side and went in from 20 yards out, giving his team a 28-21 advantage. Northwestern Lehigh faked the jet sweep that it routinely runs and Sosnovik found a wide-open spot in the middle of the field where Christopher hit him with a perfect pass for a 38-yard touchdown to make it 28-27.

Snyder rolled out the New Tripoli Special, another gadget play, for the two-point conversion and a 29-28 lead in the game.

On the first play of the next drive, Darno looked for A.J. Lozano down the sideline and when defender Seth Kern fell, Lozano jogged easily into the end zone. However, the Crusaders attempt for a two-pointer failed, leaving them up 34-29.

With the Tigers driving to open the fourth quarter, Ludlow picked off a Christopher pass at the Crusaders one-yard line, but the Northwestern defense forced a punt and gave Christopher and the offense a short field at the Notre Dame 34.

On the seventh play of the drive, Christopher went in from nine yards out and another two-point attempt failed, leaving the score 35-34.

“We always find a way to make it work,” said Christopher. “Me and Clymer with that one-two punch always works and with that line in front of us, there is nothing stopping us.”

Looking to go ahead late in the game, Darno was shaken up and went to the sideline. The Crusaders went to their wildcat offense and Ludlow took the snap and went through the middle for four yards. The play left Notre Dame with a fourth-and-four at its own 30, and without Darno, Stambaugh elected to punt. Northwestern Lehigh ran out the clock to preserve the win.

The winner of next week’s game against North Schuylkill (10-2) will get a trip to the PIAA playoffs, which are slated to begin the weekend after Thanksgiving.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Northwestern's Ben Walters battles in the trenches during the Tigers' win over Notre Dame in the district semifinals.
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Mason Bollinger (10) hands off to Cade Christopher during last Thursday's win over Notre Dame in the district semifinals.