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Pirates take advantage of NW miscues

Published August 31. 2013 09:00AM

Both teams had opportunities.

Palisades made the most of Northwestern's mistakes, while the Tigers squandered a first half lead in a 27-15 Pirates win Friday night in Colonial League action.

"I couldn't be prouder of the way they played," Palisades coach Kevin Ronalds said afterwards. "It's good to have to win a tough one right off the bat; I think we learned a lot about ourselves tonight."

Northwestern jumped out to an early 8-0 lead in the first quarter on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Frank Dangello to Cameron Richardson.

But Palisades would answer in the second, when Christian Gretzinger returned a Dangello interception 25-yards for a touchdown. A two-point conversion attempt by the Pirates to tie the game failed.

Gretzinger got the Pirates in good field position with a solid punt return on their next possession, taking the ball to midfield. Palisades didn't wait long to capitalize, as JD Donnelly took the ball 52 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the drive to put the visitors up 13-8.

Northwestern answered before halftime, as Taylor Breininger returned a Nick Sanders pass 55 yards for a touchdown to put the Tigers up 15-13 with only 49 seconds to go before the intermission.

With Northwestern getting the ball to start the second half, the Tigers looked primed to extend their lead and take control of the game. But a quick three-and-out on their first possession out of the locker room proved to be a sampling of what was to come over the final two quarters.

The Pirates took control of the game on their next possession, putting together a 15 play, 68-yard drive that was capped by Christian Gretzinger's one-yard touchdown run. The drive took nearly eight minutes off the clock and put the Northwestern defense on its heels, something the Tigers couldn't overcome in the second half.

The game-defining drive was something Ronalds felt his team was capable of at halftime.

"There wasn't a whole lot of yelling and screaming at halftime," Ronalds said "We kind of melted down in that first quarter and did some things that I'd never seen before.

"We got that out of our system and played our kind of football in the second half."

The Pirates' style of football, especially on defense, thwarted Northwestern's comeback attempts, pressuring Dangello and forcing him to rush his throws.

Winning the turnover battle was something that Ronalds keyed on during the offseason, and the Pirates made sure to take advantage of the chances when they got them.

"We preach that everyday," said Ronalds. "That's a goal of ours. I'm really proud of the defense and the way they went after the ball."

Palisades put one more touchdown on the board in the fourth on a Nick Sanders quarterback keeper to seal the win.

With one game in the books, Northwestern coach Josh Snyder knows his team has work to do before week two.

"Coming into the season we knew that to be successful we had to be able to run the ball on offense, stop the run on defense and win the turnover battle. Obviously, tonight wasn't a good start for us since we put the ball on the ground a few times.

"You're fighting an uphill battle when you give the opponent more opportunities than you have. And usually when you turn the ball over they're getting the ball in pretty good field position and it put the defense in a bad spot."

Still, Snyder sees reason for hope moving forward.

"I'm proud of our effort," Snyder said. "It's always tough to lose your first game and I think we just shot ourselves in the foot tonight. We just left too many plays on the field."

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