Johnson, Marsh lead NL
ron gower/times news Northwestern's Cam Richardson (9) is wrapped at the line of scimmage by Northern Lehigh's Chance DeLong (4).
Just 93 seconds into the game, Northern Lehigh wasn't looking very 'special.'
The remaining 46+ minutes was another story, however.
After digging itself an early hole with some shaky special team play, the Bulldogs bounced back and rolled to a 57-19 mercy-rule victory over Northwestern on Friday night.
"By far, this was our best effort of the season," said Northern Lehigh coach Joe Tout. "We took a major step forward defensively. From last week to this week was a huge difference.
"We wanted to be fundamentally sound and have everyone concentrate on doing their job. That's what we did. We had 11 guys all doing their job."
But the Bulldogs weren't just impressive on defense, they excelled offensively as well.
Leading the way was the 1-2 punch of quarterback Dan Marsh and tailback Caleb Johnson. Marsh racked up 182 yards of offense, throwing for two touchdowns and running for two more. Johnson had 184 yards rushing, 56 yards receiving and scored four touchdowns.
"Our line did a great job tonight," said Johnson. "The opened up some huge holes and gave us the opportunity to make a lot of big plays."
A number of those big plays came early in the game as the teams combined for four touchdowns in the first 2:24 of play.
It started when Northern Lehigh tried to run a reverse on the opening kickoff. The Bulldogs fumbled the exchange and Northwestern (3-4) recovered on the 11-yard line. Three plays later, Tyler Richardson caught an eight-yard TD pass from Frank Dangello.
"Blame me for that," said Tout after the game. "I have should have known better than to make that call.
"But I like the way we battled back after after giving up a couple of big special team plays early."
The Bulldogs (5-2) answered quickly as Johnson bolted 65 yards for a score on Northern Lehigh's first play from scrimmage. A successful two-point conversion run by Marsh made it 8-7.
But the lead didn't last long as Cameron Richardson returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown and a 13-8 Tiger lead with 10:27 left in the opening quarter.
This time, it took Northern Lehigh just two plays to answer as Marsh raced 74 yards for a touchdown and a 14-13 Bulldog lead.
"We talked about getting off to a good start tonight after getting off to slow starts the last couple of games," said Northwestern coach Josh Snyder. "We did exactly that, but then we gave up way too many big plays. They made a lot more plays than we did."
The Bulldogs' next score came on a 38-yard pass from Marsh to Darien Middaugh with 2:48 to play in the opening quarter. Johnson then took over, scoring on a one-yard run, a 47-yard pass reception, and a 13-yard interception return within a a seven minutes span of the second quarter. That gave Northern Lehigh a 38-13 halftime advantage.
Johnson's interception was one of five the Bulldogs had in the game.
"We felt that we needed to throw the ball to be successful tonight," said Snyder. "But we could never get our passing game in sync."
Marsh ran for another TD in the third quarter and when CJ Young went eight yards for a score with 11:11 remaining the game, the Bulldogs' lead was 50-13 and the mercy rule was in effect.
"We wanted to send a message after Pen Argyl gashed us last week and I think we did that," said Johnson. "We took it on the chin last week, but we bounced back tonight. Now we just have to keep rolling."