Bulldogs edge Northwestern
Bob Ford/TIMES NEWS Northern Lehigh's Nick Valentini is dragged down by Jarjous Bazz of Northwestern during Friday night's game.
Joe Tout saw something on Northern Lehigh's first extra-point kick. He knew Northwestern was vulnerable to the Bulldogs' fake kick and told his quarterback and holder, Dylan Hofmann, that they would try it after their next touchdown.
With the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, Tout didn't hesitate to call the play. And Hofmann executed despite Northwestern's best effort to break it up. The conversion gave the Bulldogs a 15-14 win in the annual rivalry game.
"After we scored in the first half," said Hofmann, "coach said don't tell anyone, but you guys are going to run it. We didn't think we were going to have to wait until the fourth quarter for our next touchdown, but it wouldn't be exciting if we didn't."
Northwestern wasn't surprised. When Hofmann ran left, he was met by Tiger tacklers. He was in the grasp of one when he made a last-second option toss to Kirk Bender, who ran in for the game-winning points.
"He was wrapped up," Bender said. "It wasn't a pitch. It was more like a toss over his head. Luckily I was there and I got it."
The score gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game.
"The kid made a great play," said Northwestern head coach Tom Linette. "I can still picture it, seeing him being wrapped up and still throwing the ball. That was pretty impressive."
While that play won the game, Bender said Northern Lehigh's defensive stand at the end of the first half could have been the most important series of the night.
With the game tied at 7-7, the Tigers had a first and goal from the eight. They got to the 3-yard line on first down and to the 1-yard line on second down. But Northern Lehigh held them on third and fourth downs, getting the ball back with 20 seconds left in the half.
"That's been our problem all year," said Linette. "We don't get the ball in when it's close. We've squandered opportunities. Against a good team you can't do that."
The Tigers (3-4) scored first in the game to quiet the Slatington crowd if only briefly.
Payton Bachman caught a pass over the middle from quarterback Ty Cunningham, who threw the ball while being taken down. Bachman (3 catches, 105 yards) made a one-handed grab then raced ahead of defensive back David Getz and into the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown with 1:13 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs tied the game with 6:56 left in the first half on Bender's 5-yard run. The score was set up by Getz's 38-yard run.
The two teams battled for field position in the second half as the defenses took over.
On their third possession of the second half, after their first two yielded just one first down, the Tigers went back ahead. Cunningham found a hole up the middle and raced 31 yards to put his team up 14-7 with 8:34 left in the game.
The Bulldogs responded with a fake reverse on the ensuing kick off. Northwestern's cover team bought the fake and Getz raced 46 yards to put his team on the Tigers' 39-yard line.
Northern Lehigh used six plays to get in, scoring on Trevor Yashur's 3-yard run and going ahead on the two-point conversion.
The Bulldogs had a tough test playing their biggest rival a week after their first loss of the season, which came last week against undefeated Pen Argyl.
"We knew we had to forget about the loss," said running bak Trevor Yashur, who ran for 108 yards in the game. "We knew we had to execute against Northwestern because they're always a good team.
"Northwestern always plays us tough."