It's only the second week of the high school football season and there is already "big game" fever at Northern Lehigh.
The Bulldogs, coming off a 42-0 win over Notre Dame in their opener, will get a real test this Saturday (1:30 p.m.) when they travel to Wilson to take on the defending Colonial League champions. Wilson opened up with a 28-6 victory over Palmerton.
Even though it's early in the season, there is no doubt that the outcome of this game could play a big part in who is in contention for the league crown eight weeks from now.
"We improved a lot from our second scrimmage to our first game, so we were pleased with the effort last week," said Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout. "We made mistakes, but they are all correctable. What I was happy with was that we got all of our kids in the game and were still able to get our starters three quarters of work to help with the conditioning aspect."
The Bulldogs know that Wilson isn't an easy place to play on a Saturday afternoon. The last time they beat the Warriors in Wilson was during their 2003 run to the state title game, in which they won by a 51-0 score.
"You always think and look at their offense," Tout said, when asked what it would take to get a win this weekend. "What I see is that they still have the big play capabilities. If they're going to score, we have to make them drive the ball. We can't miss tackles, we can't give up the big play."
Quarterback Chris Cooper broke loose on a 22-yard run to give the Warriors a 7-0 halftime lead against Palmerton. He also threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Trey Robinson and a 34-yard TD pass to Roth Healey. The other big play for a score was a 30-yard TD pass from Nick Smith to Sam Healey.
"Offensively, we just have to have quality possessions," said Tout. "We can't have three-and-outs. We can't have turnovers. We have to drive the ball. I think field position is going to play a big part. We have to make them go 70 yards consistently rather than give them the ball at midfield."
Wilson's strength seems to be on defense, especially at linebacker and in the secondary. The Warriors didn't let Palmerton sustain one drive last week and their pass defense was exceptional.
"I'm confident in our offense and our offensive line," said Tout. "We'll be better this week. We definitely can't have turnovers. If we can put together drives that are pretty consistent, we'll be okay."
Tailback Cody Remaley rushed for over 200 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries last week. Look for him to touch the ball even more this time around.
Jake Kern returned a punt for a touchdown, recovered a fumble, blocked a field goal attempt and also scored on a 10-yard run, showing that the Bulldogs have more offense than Remaley.
Kyle Schomp and Kirk Bender (leading tackler against Notre Dame) will be counted on to have big games defensively.
Wilson has a lot more two-way players than it has had in some time. One advantage that the Bulldogs have is that their offensive line, excluding Mike Buresh, are one-way players. It wasn't evident in the win over Notre Dame, but it will be something to watch this week to see how it plays out.
"They have a bit of advantage because (the Warriors) feel like they can't lose at home." said Tout. "I told our kids that we have a challenge, but I don't want them believing that Wilson is unbeatable down there. We still have to play a football game Saturday."