Catty, NW after EC berth
Both Catasauqua and Northwestern would rather be playing for a district playoff spot this Friday night. At the same time, both teams are excited for the opportunity to extend their season with a win this week.
With the Class AA bracket already decided, the two Colonial League foes are set to battle it out for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
The winner of Friday night's game at Catty's Alumni Field can lock up the postseason berth, possibly as the No. 1 seed in Division II.
"This is a playoff game for us," said Northwestern head coach Tom Linette. "The Eastern Conference playoffs are still good football. The nice thing about it is it gives you a chance to end the season with a championship."
The Rough Riders (6-3) enter Friday's game off of a 13-7 loss to Northern Lehigh last week. The Tigers (5-4) are riding high after their biggest win of the season last week, a 36-28 decision over Bangor that snapped a three-game losing streak.
The teams run similar spread-read-option offenses. The Tigers are pretty balanced, while the Roughies look to run the ball about two-thirds of the time.
Another difference is that the Roughies often run their spread without a huddle.
"They come to the line of scrimmage, back off and then change the play," said Linette, in his second year as head coach and 31st year with the Northwestern program. "They're the only team I've seen that does that - calls plays at the line of scrimmage."
Catty's spread works because of senior quarterback Jake Bloszinsky. He's completed 58 of 120 passes for 687 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions. He's also run for 267 yards on 73 carries.
"He's good," said Linette. "He can throw and he can run. That's the thing that makes their offense so effective."
The Roughies' top running backs both average over six yards per carry. Senior Luke Garner (6.6) has rushed 97 times for 643 yards and seven touchdowns. Sophomore Ra'Von Burton (6.9) has 56 carries for 388 yards and three touchdowns.
Catty's run for 1579 yards as a team this year, while passing for 902.
Bloszkinsky spreads the ball around. Five receivers have nine catches or more this season, led by senior Vinny Pellechia (18 for 228 yards, four touchdowns) and senior Sa'Quan Burton (17 for 245 yards and three touchdowns.
"They have a lot of speed and they make great catches," said Linette.
The Tigers counter with their Ty Cunningham-led spread offense. They added a new wrinkle last week, running a mid-line option play that Bangor couldn't solve. Cunningham ran for 176 yards on 19 carries and threw for 119 yards. The Tigers' offensive line played one of its best games of the season against the biggest team in the league.
This week they're up against the Roughies' 3-3 stack defense. They are likely to make Catty stop their running attack, with Cunningham and backs Payton Bachman and Mason Schuler leading the way. The Roughies have allowed 1,932 rushing yards this season.
"It's critical for us to take advantage of what they give us," said Linette. "We've got to control the line and block their linebackers."
Both teams started the season with a bunch of wins in South Division cross-over games. The Tigers went 4-1 in the first half. The Roughies were 5-0. Postseason berths seemed nearly sealed up back then.
But both teams have now gone 1-3 against fellow North Division teams and are looking for a win this Friday night to keep their playoff hopes alive.
"It's great to be playing and thinking we can extend our season," said Linette.