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10-0 with more to go

Northwestern and Southern Lehigh have been unstoppable all season.

But on Friday night, the Tigers were undeniable.

Northwestern bulldozed its way to a 42-14 victory over the Spartans in a battle of unbeatens to claim the Colonial League Gold Division title.

The Tigers did it with brute force, as senior Dalton Clymer carved out 249 yards on the ground and three touchdowns on 34 carries.

“I don’t know if I could put a number on it,” Clymer said of where he’d rank the performance. “It’s definitely up there. I’ve had a lot of great games in my career, and this is definitely near the top. Really dominant performance tonight and it feels amazing to get another one of these medals.”

Clymer and Northwestern (10-0) shined bright on the biggest stage and in the biggest showdown of the season.

And it didn’t take long for the Tigers to seize momentum.

Eli Zimmerman came up with a game-changing interception and 60-yard return for Northwestern to stop Southern Lehigh’s (9-1) first drive, which went to the Tigers’ 35-yard line.

Northwestern took over at the Spartans’ eight-yard line, and needed just two plays to punch it into the end zone, with Shane Leh going in from four yards out and Seth Kern hitting the extra point to make it 7-0 with 8:50 left in the opening quarter.

“That was huge,” Tiger head coach Josh Snyder said of the interception. “They were getting first downs. They’re driving it down the field and we were sort of on our heels. But Eli coming up with that huge interception, down the sideline, and two plays later Shane pops one in there for a touchdown. That was big.”

After forcing a three and out on the Spartans’ next drive, Northwestern marched 71 yards, with Clymer plowing into the end zone from a yard out and Kern’s extra point making it 14-0 with 1:40 left in the opening quarter. Clymer also had a 20-yard run on fourth and two from the Southern Lehigh 47-yard line to keep the drive alive.

Zimmerman appeared to have another massive interception on the first play of the Spartans’ next drive, but a roughing the passer call kept the possession alive for Southern Lehigh.

Three plays later, Christopher Fritts hit John Inglis for a 48-yard TD on the first play of the second quarter to cut the deficit to 14-7.

The Tigers put together a 14 play, 66-yard drive, which ended with Leh going in for his second score of the night, this time from two yards out, to make it 21-7 with 5:36 left in the first half.

“The team was awesome,” said Leh. “It was just a great performance by them. Everyone played their role. It was a great all around performance by the offense and defense.”

Southern Lehigh faced a fourth-and-goal from Northwestern 11-yard line on its next possession, but the Tigers came up with a stop, as Bryer Reichard sacked Fritts with 2:17 left in the quarter to end the threat.

The Tigers took the ball to start the second half and went 70 yards, possessing the ball for nearly half the quarter before Clymer went in from six yards out to make it 28-7. The drive also included a 27-yard pass from Leh to Mason Bollinger on third-and-six from their own 34-yard line.

Southern Lehigh drove to the Northwestern 27-yard line on its first series of the third quarter, but Daniel Jenkins broke up a pass play on fourth-and-nine with 4:30 to go in the period.

“It was awesome,” said Zimmerman. “Our coaches really came into this with a great game plan. Danny Jenkins and Landen Matson had great games. They had to cover the two best receivers, (Andrew) Olesh and Inglis, and they really did well. They got the job done, and it showed on the scoreboard.”

The Tigers kept their foot on the gas, with Clymer carrying all eight times on a 73-yard drive before scoring his third touchdown of the night, this one from a yard out, to make it 35-7 with 0:32 left in the third.

With freshman Colton Sams at quarterback, the Spartans went 68 yards on a drive aided by a pass interference penalty before Sams hit Inglis for a nine-yard score with 8:49 left in the contest to make it 35-14.

Clymer recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt, and Northwestern capped a 40-yard drive with Devon Hildebrand’s four-yard TD to bring the score to 42-14 with 3:29 to play.

The Tigers ran the ball 53 times for 317 yards in the contest. Clymer had 19 carries for 128 yards in the first half.

While Northwestern racked up yards on the ground, the Tigers held Southern Lehigh to 29 yards rushing on 18 attempts.

The Tigers head into the District 11 playoffs as the top seed in Class 3A.

The Northwestern football team was awarded the Colonial-Schuylkill Football League Gold Division trophy after capping a 10-0 season Friday. PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Dalton Clymer ran for 249 yards and three touchdowns in last Friday's win over Southern Lehigh.