Every football team gets a break here and there. But the difference between the good teams and the rest is that good teams take advantage of those breaks.
Northwestern took advantage of one big break Friday night, converting a pass interference penalty into the go-ahead touchdown before beating Scranton Prep 16-7 in an Eastern Conference semifinal in New Tripoli.
"They deserved to win this game," said Scranton Prep head coach Nick Donato. "They were the better football team tonight, but we could have stole the football game from them. That call was ridiculous."
Northwestern was down 7-3 with over six minutes left in the game. On a third and 19 from their own 25-yard line, Trevor German overthrew his receiver by a few yards and the receiver fell down as the ball went by him. It appeared to be incidental contact, or no catact, but a flag was thrown and the Tigers got a first down on their own 40.
From there they used 12 plays to get to the end zone. They converted two third downs on the drive, both of which came via Colton Breininger runs.
German set up the touchdown with a 24-yard run that put his team on the 1-yard line. He plunged in for the score with 2:19 left in the game.
"I knew we were going to capitalize at the end," German said. "We're like that as a team."
The Cavaliers still had time to come back, but the Tigers' Nick Boyd picked off a George Pachucy pass with 2:02 left in the game then ran 39 yards for a touchdown three plays later to give his team a 16-7 lead with 1:16 left.
"The line was just pounding them all night," Boyd said. "That softened them up. The hole was right there."
When Prep got the ball back Boyd came up with a tackle for an 8-yard loss before Greg Collopy's interception sealed the win.
While the Tiger offense made the big plays at the end, it was the defense that kept them in the game as it has many times this season.
Cavalier running back John Mariotti came into the game with over 1,500 rushing yards. He ran for 126 against the Tigers, but 61 yards came on his only touchdown run and he had just 12 yards on eight carries after half time.
"That's a good football team," said Northwestern head coach Bob Mitchell. "Mariotti is a heck of a player. He hurt us one time but we were able to contain him from that point."
Prep gained just 150 yards of offense in the game.
"I thought their offensive and defensive lines controlled the line of scrimmage," Donato said.
Northwestern moved the ball well, but each of its three penalties in the game were costly. One negated a Garrett Lerner touchdown run. The other two brought back first down runs. All of them came in the second half and were part of drives that stalled.
The win allows the Tigers to move on to the Eastern Conference final next week against the winner of tonight's Bethlehem Catholic-Wilkes Barre Coughlin game. The win also evens the all-time record for the Tiger program at 228-228-6.
It was Northwestern's fourth straight win since losing to Northern Lehigh on October 16.
"I think we've grown up since the Northern Lehigh game," Mitchell said. "I think we've matured and we're able to do things like we did in the fourth quarter.
"It was desperation time and we went down and scored."
Northwestern took the early lead on a 26-yard Andrew Detusch field goal with 6:43 left in the first quarter.
Prep answered when Mariotti broke a 61-yard touchdown run with 9:34 left in the first half.
Northwestern had three backs run for over 60 yards. Kevin Oxley had 18 carries for 71 yards. Breininger had 10 for 67. Boyd carried three times for 68 yards. German ran 13 times for 61 yards.