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Tigers top Southern Lehigh

Northwestern Lehigh and Southern Lehigh have strong rivalries in several sports. Ironically, with all the success that the Tigers have had on the football field, they had not been able to beat the Spartans at Tiger Stadium during Josh Snyder’s tenure as Northwestern head coach.

That changed Friday night when Northwestern remained undefeated with a 34-19 win over Southern Lehigh.

The only thing the Tigers lost in the game was the coin toss, which went to the Spartans who elected to defer to the second half, giving the Tigers the ball to start the game. That worked out just fine for Northwestern.

Just over a minute into the game, Northwestern’s offense covered 69 yards with Justin Holmes hitting Taylor Wikert for the opening score on a 31-yard catch and run. Luke Benvin added the extra point, and the Tigers went up 7-0.

Quarterback Justin Holmes accounted for 305 yards of total offense amassing 184 yards through the air and another 121 yards rushing.

Holmes also played a role in all five of the team’s touchdowns, throwing two of them and running for three more. On the season, the Kent State bound senior has thrown for 334 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 409 and eight TDs.

Cade Christopher was Holmes’ preferred target on the night, pulling in a season-high four passes for 61 yards. The junior receiver was expected to play a big role in the passing game, but he has also found himself being a weapon on the ground for the Tigers. On the season, Christopher has 13 carries for 171 yards and two touchdowns out of the backfield.

“I’m a little surprised at how many opportunities I’m getting, but I’m enjoying it,” said Christopher. “I didn’t expect to be running the ball like this, but I’m glad I’m getting the carries. I’m just trying to help my team out and I’m doing what I have to do. My teammates have the same approach and together we just all work really well.”

Holmes rushed for two touchdowns in the second quarter and Southern Lehigh took advantage of a snap that went over punter Jacob Peters’ head, giving the Spartans the ball at the Tigers seven-yard line. A handoff to Christian Trevis covered all seven yards to get Southern Lehigh on the board.

When the first half ended, Northwestern Lehigh held a 20-6 advantage because of a failed two-point conversion by the Tigers and a Spartans extra-point that was blocked.

The Northwestern Lehigh defense forced five fumbles and recovered three of them. It also intercepted two James Wisecarver passes in the game. Holmes was intercepted once.

Holmes again controlled the game in the second half with a 27-yard TD pass to Dalton Clymer and another rushing touchdown, this time going for 13 yards.

“We were able to hit on some big plays throwing the ball,” said Snyder. “We definitely threw more than we did last week and Justin did a good job again for us. Our playmakers made all the plays and that was a difference in the game for us.”

Playing the game on the eve of September 11, the Tigers wore special camouflage jerseys to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The two teams also observed a moment of silence before the game to reflect on the anniversary and the lives that were lost. The pregame moment of silence also noted the passing of Southern Lehigh assistant coach Mike Gurdineer, who passed away from COVID last week. Gurdineer’s stepson, Blaze Curry, elected to play the game and was a workhorse for the Spartans, carrying the ball 21 times for 109 yards.

PRESS PHOTO BY LEROY BOGERT Cade Christopher was listed as a receiver on the Tigers' preseason depth chart. He's also been an asset as a running back through three games.
PRESS PHOTO BY LEROY BOGERT Northwestern's Ben Dunstan takes down a Southern Lehigh ball carreir during last week's win over the Spartans.