Tigers hang on to down PA
Doug Edwards/Special to the TIMES NEWS Northwestern's Kevin Oxley, right, tries to get around Pen Argyl defender Dylan Evans during Friday's Colonial League game.
It didn't produce any points.
And it only reached midfield.
But it may have been Northwestern's most important drive of the season.
After the Tigers' defense came up with a clutch goal line stand to preserve a 13-7 lead against Pen Argyl Friday night, the offense took over on its own three-yard line with just 4:52 left to play.
With field conditions a mess and three previous possessions producing no first downs, Northwestern head coach Bob Mitchell had some words for his players.
"We called a timeout and talked about it," said Mitchell. "Basically what we told them was that this was the season. We said we had to reach down deep and get a first down. We had to give ourselves some room and try and take some time off the clock.
"Even bigger than that stand was taking time off the clock and coming out of that deep hole."
Not only did Mitchell's offense step up to the challenge, they exceeded it.
With the line leading the way, and its backs running hard, Northwestern's ground attack not only produced some breathing room but it kept the ball the rest of the way.
The Tigers (5-3) moved the chains three times, producing 49 yards in 10 plays, to run the clock to :00.
The victory still gives Northwestern a chance of making the district playoffs.
"We're still alive," said Mitchell, whose team is currently fifth in Class AAA. "That's been my mantra and I'm sure they're tired of hearing it. We thought we buried ourselves last week (after losing to Northern Lehigh) but the way things worked out we still have a chance.
"We knew this was an absolute must. We can't afford another loss."
It looked like the Tigers were staring defeat in the face after Pen Argyl (2-6) blocked a punt midway through the fourth quarter and took over at the NW 26-yard line.
A Nathan Hood-to-Conor Gum 17-yard pass gave the Knights a first-and-goal but Northwestern's defense came through with four stops.
On fourth down at the four, Hood rolled right but was brought down by the Tigers' Trevor German.
"Our defense has played tough all year long," said Mitchell. "It wasn't a rosy picture there with first and goal at the eight but they hung tough on the first three. We figured they were going to try and bounce it on the fourth down and we guessed right. The kids stepped up and made a nice play."
Pen Argyl made a big play early in the second half to erase a 7-0 Northwestern lead.
The Tigers held the advantage thanks to a 14-play second-quarter drive that was capped by German's two-yard keeper, but the Knights hit on a flea flicker for 36 yards that eventually led to a Dylan Evans seven-yard scoring run and a 7-7 tie.
Northwestern answered right back, though, to regain the lead. Kevin Oxley (12 carries for 81 yards) broke loose for a 31-yard gallop that set up his own one-yard touchdown midway through the third frame.
"We put together a nice drive after their score ... and we were able to hang on in the fourth quarter," said Mitchell.
"It was a pretty good football game considering the conditions. We just had to find a way to win, and that's what we did."