CATASAUQUA – Northwestern's defense has had some great performances this season. But Friday night's shut out of one of the Colonial League's best offenses has to be at the top of the list.
The Tigers held Rough Rider quarterback Brandon Lesko to just 95 rushing yards and 70 passing. They didn't allow any big plays in a 13-0 win at Catty's Alumni Field.
"Our defense played really well the whole game," said Northwestern senior defensive back Greg Collopy. "I didn't think we'd shut them out, but I knew we could hold them to at least one score."
Collopy got Northwestern on the board when a Nate Falko fumble bounced into his arms and he outraced two Rough Riders 35 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 3:02 left in the first quarter.
"Everybody stood him up," said Collopy. "It popped up and I caught it and had a clear ride to end zone."
It was one of two fumbles the Tiger forced in the game, both recovered by Collopy. The second came in the fourth quarter, just after Northwestern had taken a 13-0 lead on Trevor German's 48-yard touchdown run.
The Roughies were trying to answer with a quick score. After a 55-yard kickoff return they drove to the Tiger 10-yard line before Collopy came up with another fumble at the 16-yard line and ran it 81 yards the Catty 13 to help seal the win with 1:18 left to play. The fumble was forced by Colton Breininger.
"Greg Collopy had a heck of a football game," said Northwestern head coach Bob Mitchell. "He just happened to be in the right place at the right time. He made absolutely great plays."
Northwestern allowed Catty five plays of 10-14 yards, but other than that, one lone 20-yard run was Catty's longest play from scrimmage. Lesko went deep four times, twice getting picked off and twice his receivers had to play defense to avoid picks.
The Tiger offense only scored once, but it put together drives long enough to keep the Rough Rider offense off the field.
Mitchell credited defensive coaches Len Smith, Bob Horner, Greg Mitchell and Scott Hippensteel.
"They put a great game plan together and our kids executed," he said. "Start with those four guys and and finish with the kids using their athleticism and playing the way that they're capable of playing."
Northwestern got more than one defensive stop from several players, including Ty Cunningham, Tony Wargo, Chad Reppert Nick Boyd, Toby Koenig, Nick Boyd, Garrett Lerner and Collopy.
Northwestern's offense played well, despite not racking up a bunch of points. It had three possessions last 13 plays or longer, which helped keep Catty's offense off the field.
After the early touchdown, Northwestern's defense held off Catty time and again before the Tigers' late score that put Catty on its heels. Finally the offense came up with the big play it needed.
The touchdown came on a third down and seven. German took the snap and found room up the middle, using a block from Shelby Storm and breaking free for a 48-yard score with just 2:29 left in the game.
"It opened right up," German said. "We had a great block from our center [Shelby Storm]. He took [his man] right out of the play. I came right off his back and took it in."
German finished the night with 13 carries for 60 yards. Northwestern also got solid efforts from three running backs, Breininger (12 carries for 71 yards), Kevin Oxley (13 for 67), and Nick Boyd (8 for 33).
The win earns Northwestern an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
Catty, which could have secured the District 11 Class AA No. 2 seed with the win, will likely fall to No. 4 with the loss.
"I don't know what was up with us tonight," Catty head coach Tom Falzone. "We just didn't bring it tonight. We made too many mistakes, costly, costly mistakes."