Big plays got Northwestern its first three touchdowns, but it was two sustained drives that clinched Northwestern's 28-21 win over Bangor Friday night in New Tripoli.
The Tigers scored three times on plays off 44 yards or longer to build a 21-7 lead late in the third quarter.
When two quick Bangor scores made it 21-21 with 11:07 left in the fourth, Northwestern (6-3) answered with a 70-yard, 11 play touchdown drive for a 28-21 lead with 6:40 left.
"That was the biggest drive we had all year," said Northwestern head coach Bob Mitchell. "To make the plays that we did to get up 21-7 and you still don't feel comfortable because Scotty (LaValva) is so explosive you just don't know what's going to happen. Next thing you know it's 21-21."
Northwestern allowed Bangor all-purpose back LaValva 262 yards on 35 carries, but the Tiger defense came up with a few stops and a couple turnovers to keep the Slaters from turning their yards into points.
Bangor scored first in the game, but their lead was short-lived.
LaValva, who played mostly running back Friday night, got his team on the board with a 12-yard run in the first quarter.
Northwestern's Colton Breininger ran the ensuing kick off back 76 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-7 with 2:00 left in the first quarter.
"That was a huge run back," said Northwestern running back Kevin Oxley. "That just got our spirits right back up."
Breininger is on the second line of the kick off unit. He is a running back on offense, but a blocker on special teams.
"That kick off return is not designed for me to get the ball," he said. "It's designed for me to go and blow people up. When they kicked the ball to me it was a bit of a surprise. I just ran hard and tried my best. Luckily I just broke it and kept running."
Neither team could get its offense going in the first half, but Northwestern started to enforce its will in the second.
Oxley picked off a pass on Bangor's first possession of the second half. Two plays later Breininger took a handoff and found a seam up the middle for a 56-yard touchdown run.
After forcing a Slater punt, the Tigers put together a six-play touchdown drive highlighted by Oxley's reverse pass to Payton Bachman for a 44-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead with 2:30 left.
Northwestern called the gadget play six weeks ago against Wilson, but Oxley never got the pass off. He was glad the play was put back in this week.
"I love when that play's called," Oxley said. "We've been practicing that play all week. We thought we could get that. It was a big play for us."
But Bangor (3-6) didn't go away. A 60-yard kick off return by Clifford Smith followed by LaValva's first-down touchdown run of 25 yards made it 21-14 with 2:15 left in the third.
The Slaters forced a Northwestern punt before LaValva made another play. On a third and 11 he dropped back to pass before finding room up the middle and running 69 yards for the tying touchdown, 21-21 with 11:07 left in the fourth.
Northwestern's go-ahead drive followed. Six different backs carried the ball on the drive. It was capped by Trevor German's 4-yard quarterback sneak.
Bangor head coach Frank Scagliotta was disappointed with the result, but not his team's effort.
"It was probably our best all around effort all year long," he said. "Take away the big plays, we gave them three big plays. Other than that we played good defense against them. It's a heartbreaking loss because the kids did play so hard."