Tigers battle Slaters
The importance of this Friday's night Colonial League showdown with Bangor is pretty obvious to Northwestern head coach Tom Linette.
"This is our third game in a row that we've been in for some kind of important game or championship," Linette said. "With Northern Lehigh, we were sitting with one loss at the time. So, we were talking about the league. This past week with Pen Argyl, that was important for a spot in double-A (districts).
"This one's different in a the way since we're playing against someone in a different class."
Bangor is also vying for a playoff spot in Class 3A so both teams are hungry for a victory. A Northwestern win, though, earns extra points and gives itself a better chance of reaching the postseason.
"I told the kids that we have to do our part (Friday night), but we also have to depend on the help from somebody else," said Linette, whose Tigers currently sit in sixth place in AA with 630 points. Northwestern trails Pine Grove (830) and Jim Thorpe (730) in the fight for the final .
"All we can worry about is picking up all these points from Bangor ... There's a lot riding on this game for both of us."
Linette admitted he doesn't really pay too much attention to the district seedings. Instead, he leaves it up to his coaching staff to do so.
He would rather focus on preparing his team for their play on the field. That would seem to be crucial since his club has dropped the last two games to Colonial League rivals Northern Lehigh and Pen Argyl.
"This is back to the routine," Linette said. "We did a couple of things with the extra day last week that we're going to try and squeeze into two days and make ourselves look sharper and come up with some few wrinkles in our offense that's going to keep them guessing on who's got the ball.
"We're trying to be creative and move the ball around. But we're going to have some fun this week and get ready for chasing another great running back."
Two weeks ago, the Tigers were forced to keep the league's all-time leading rusher (NL's Cody Remaley) in check. Now, the Tigers are forced to reckon with the third leading rusher in CL history the Slaters' Scott LaValva.
"We need to keep him under control," said Linette of the versatile back who has close to 4,500 career rushing yards. "Just like Remaley, he's the type of back that can break any play from anywhere on the field. He's also got the dimension of being able to throw the ball and run around until he finds someone that's open. He even runs the ball from one side of the field to the other side with ease. He's a threat every time he touches the ball.
"He didn't have a big game (26 carries, 82 yards, one touchdown) against Northern Lehigh, but that was against a great team. The goal will be to stop LaValva and know where he is at all times. Our defense needs to string him out and make him go sideways."
On offense, Linette wants to get back to a balanced attack.
"We need to spread the ball around," Linette said. "We need our skill players to make plays. Plus we have to dominate that line of scrimmage, which is going to be the goal on both sides of the ball."
"It's great to be playing in a big game in October," Linette said. "And we say that every week. The seniors, it's in their hands. We've got a lot of seniors. We've got a line that's full of seniors and they've got to step it up and lengthen their season. We don't want to put our pads away in two weeks."