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Football faces new-look Catty

When Catasauqua and Northwestern wrap up their Colonial League football schedules Friday night, it will be almost like the two teams have never met. After all, since the Tigers went into Alumni Field and knocked off the undefeated Rough Riders 28-27 on an extra point from kicker Brandon Miller last season, Catasauqua graduated 20 of 22 players who started in that game and they have a whole new coaching staff. Even so, one has to figure that the Rough Riders who remain from last year's squad are going to be looking for some revenge, especially since that loss dropped Catasauqua from being the Colonial League Champion to having to share the title with Southern Lehigh.

This year, it's Northwestern that comes in with the target on its back, looking to increase its record to 9-1 for at least a share of the Colonial League title. Saucon Valley and Southern Lehigh also enter the final week of the season with 8-1 records, meaning that Northwestern would need a win over Catasauqua and need Saucon Valley to lose at home to Palisades (7-2) and the Spartans to lose at Salisbury (4-5) to win the title outright. No matter what happens, the Tigers have already clinched a spot in the District 11 playoffs by virtue of their 42-6 win over Northern Lehigh last week.

"We just have to take care of what we can control," said Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder. "That's been our approach every week and it remains the same. Between us, Saucon Valley and Southern Lehigh, we've all beaten each other, so if it winds up with tri-champions, it might be the right outcome."

Last week's win not only put the Tigers into districts, but it gave them the rights to hang onto the new trophy from the rivalry that is now known as "Bo and Brett's Mountain Road Rumble," paying homage to former Northern Lehigh player Bo Tkach, who lost his battle with depression in 2007, and to former Northwestern player Brett Snyder, who is battling ALS. The trophy goes home with the winning team until the two teams meet again the following season.

"Actually, right now, it's at my house, but I'm sure it won't be long before [Northwestern athletic director Jason Zimmerman] tells me to bring it back," said Snyder.

With a trip to districts wrapped up and most of a long, hard season behind them, Northwestern is in one of those classic trap games that teams sometimes find themselves playing. Snyder doesn't have any concerns, although he will be hoping to avoid the situation that he was in as a Northwestern senior in 1997 when a loss to Catasauqua took the Tigers out of contention for the league title. Northwestern has only won one other Colonial League title and that was back in 1995 when it shared the title with the Rough Riders.

"Even if we had clinched the league title, I still think our guys would just be focused on this game, because that's the way they've played every week," Snyder said. "I told our kids that this is a game where they can just play relaxed football, but they're not going to just play it out, because I think they want that league title, even if it's not an outright title."

Veteran coach Phil Dorn is in his first season with Catasauqua and has kept some of the system intact, but has added some new wrinkles and put his stamp on the program as well. Senior receiver Ricky Houser is a holdover from last year's team and is putting up impressive numbers and is fifth in the Colonial League in both receptions and receiving yards.

Gone are star quarterback Zack Bradley and running back Ra'Von Burton from last year's squad. This season, junior Cristian Burker has seen the majority of playing time, but senior Brandon Keks has also handled the quarterback duties at times. Michael Shutta has gained over 500 yards on the ground for Catasauqua this season.