PEN ARGYL – Northwestern is a young team with many players fighting through their first varsity seasons. Pen Argyl is a more experienced team with at least a few players who were part of last year's Colonial League champs.
Each team looked the part Saturday as the Tigers (3-5) made youthful mistakes and the Knights (6-2) capitalized on nearly all of them for a 35-7 win.
"We did a good job most of the time bottling them up," said Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder. "Then just like that you miss one tackle and they have playmakers that make you pay. They made us pay today on key plays."
The Knights didn't dominate as much as the score would suggest. But they converted third downs and finished off their drives with touchdowns.
The Tigers were outgained by just 45 yards in the game, 290-245.
Northwestern was still in the game at halftime, down 21-0. The Tigers started the half with a well-executed onside kick and drove to the Knights' 25-yard line before sophomore quarterback Frank Dangello threw his third interception of the game.
The Tigers got the ball back still down 21-0, but a fumble ended that drive. The Knights, which received five Northwestern turnovers in the game, scored on their next two possessions for a 35-0 lead with 11:14 left in the game.
"That was one of our big keys for defense," said running back/safety Nick Oyer, one of Pen Argyl's two 100-yard rushers. "We want to create turnovers."
"I think we played aggressive on both sides of the ball," said Knights head coach Paul Reduzzi.
Pen Argyl's Mike Racciato picked off Dangello passes on the Tiger's first two possessions of the day. The Knights turned the second one into points with a one-play drive. Oyer (six carries, 103 yards) ran it 24 yards to pay dirt for a 7-0 lead with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
Pen Argyl's next possession started at the Northwestern 31-yard line after a failed fake punt attempt. The Knights covered that distance in six plays, capped by Racciato's 2-yard run for a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Northwestern took over and mounted it's longest drive of the game, a 17-play march that covered 60 yards and took over six minutes off the clock. But it stalled after a fourth-down Scott Beltz sack at the Pen Argyl 20-yard line.
The Knights got the ball and went 76 yards in six plays with Ryan Lobb plunging in from a yard out to give his team a 21-0 halftime lead.
After the onside kick and the pair of Tiger turnovers early in the second half, Pen Argyl used a three-play drive to take a 28-0 lead as Racciato (14 carries, 115 yards) broke free for a 25-yard touchdown run with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
After a Tiger punt, another three-play Pen Argyl drive ended with Racciato's 33-yard touchdown that put the game into the mercy rule less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
Northwestern avoided the shut out. A 10-play drive ended with Cam Richardson's three-yard touchdown run with 4:28 left in the game.
The Knights stay in the District 11 Class AA playoff race and bounce back from a home loss to Catasauqua last week.
The Tigers, which face 6-2 Bangor this week and undefeated Catasauqua next week, did their best to slow down the Knights.
"We battled," said Snyder. "We'll have all these kids back next year. I like how we didn't back down. We made it a ball game, 21-0 at half. We just gave them the ball back too many times."