NANCY SCHOLZ/Special to THE TIMES NEWS Northwestern's Frank Dangello scrambles away from Nanticokes Derek Fsher during Friday night's Eastern Conference semifinal.
With momentum from their win over previously undefeated Catasauqua last week, the Northwestern Tigers rolled over Nanticoke 50-21 in the semi-final round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Tigers are the top seed in the tournament and will host North Schuylkill next week for the Eastern Conference 2A Championship. North Schuylkill downed North Penn to advance to the championship.
Northwestern's Harry Hall racked up a total of 237 yards rushing with four touchdowns and got the scoring started with a 32 yard touchdown run on Northwestern's first possession of the game. The Tigers scored on each of their first three possessions to jump out to an 18-0 lead after a two-point conversion and two point-after kicks failed.
Nanticoke, members of the Wyoming Valley Conference in District 2, used running back Pat Hempel for most of their yardage and got the Trojans first score of the night with a 26 yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. Northwestern didn't take long to respond when Cam Richardson intercepted quarterback Joe Levandowski giving the Tigers the ball at their own 33 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Hall dashed 67 yards up the middle of the field to give the Tigers a 25-7 lead.
Northwestern would score two more times to take a 38-7 lead into the locker room at half-time and they went right back to work on their first possession of the second half. After Nanticoke went three-and-out to start the second half, a 20 yard punt gave the Tigers the ball at the Nanticoke 33 yard line and five plays later, they were back in the end zone when Cam Richardson went three yards for the score, which put Northwestern up 44-7 and put the mercy rule into effect.
"We were prepared and we knew that they had won three out of their last four games, so we knew they got in here on a squeaker, but we knew we could put up some points against them," said Richardson.
The defense went to work for the Tigers when Taylor Breininger picked up a loose football and ran 30 yards for a defensive score to put the Tigers at 50 points on the night. The Northwestern defense would intercept Trojans' quarterback Joe Levandowski three times to go along with the fumble recovery for an impressive performance.
From there on out, Northwestern got younger players into the mix and sophomore Brett Schillinger made the most of the opportunity, picking up 49 yards on six carries.
"It's nice to get back to the post-season and for our guys to come out and have a performance like this," said coach Josh Snyder, who was on the coaching staff in 2009 when Northwestern lost to Bethlehem Catholic in the Eastern Conference playoffs. "It seems like we're just clicking on all cylinders at the right time, right when you're supposed to at the end of the season, so that's a good feeling."
Northwestern is playing some of their best football of the season right now, including their win over Catasauqua last week that gave them the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"We learn each week from our mistakes and I definitely think we're getting a lot better. That was a really big win for us last week and it's difficult coming off of a big win sometimes, but we came back and fought hard tonight," said Richardson.