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Tigers aim to stop Tide

You don’t have to do the six degrees of separation game to connect Pottsville and Northwestern Lehigh’s football teams.

For years, they were scrimmage foes during the preseason, and in 2006 met for the District 11 3A championship, which Pottsville won 13-6.

They would have met again in last year’s district semifinals if not for an upstart Wilson team pulling off an upset a round earlier and knocking out Pottsville. The Warriors then had to forfeit their game against Northwestern because of COVID issues, sending the Tigers on to the championship game.

While the teams have a history, so do their coaches. Northwestern’s Josh Snyder was a senior on the Lehigh University football team when Pottsville coach Tom McGeoy was a sophomore.

Now, they’ll be standing across the field from one another leading two of the best teams in the area in exactly the type of game that the Colonial-Schuylkill football alliance was meant to produce, as both teams are undefeated in the Gold Division, and will have obvious implications for districts.

Currently, Northwestern Lehigh holds the top spot in the class 4A district standings with a perfect 7-0 record, with Pottsville just behind them at 6-1.

“Their only loss came against Wyomissing, and they’re tearing up District 3, so there’s no shame in losing to a team like that,” added Snyder. “It’s possible that we’ll be seeing each other down the road again, and maybe makeup for some of those times that we just missed them.”

The Tide are led by seniors at their skill positions and in many other spots on the field. Travontai Davis averages 108 yards rushing per game, and leads the team with 889 all-purpose yards. Davis is also tough to contain on special teams, with 216 kickoff return yards, giving him a total of just under 150 yards per game between rushing, kick returns and pulling in the occasional pass from fellow senior Jazce Carabello-Snowell.

Carabello-Snowell averages 125.5 yards passing per game, and another 63 yards on the ground. His favorite targets are seniors Raeff Dicello and Amari Dunn. Dicello pulls in an average of 50 yards per game, while Dunn is a playmaker who averages just under 20 yards per catch, and often dodges tacklers and moves through the secondary.

“They’re probably the most balanced and well-rounded offensive team that we’ve faced,” said Snyder. “Their quarterback can scamper around a little, and they’ve got a ground game and receivers who can all make plays. We must play a good all-around game and stop what they do best, which is run the ball.”

Both offenses can strike quickly and often, leading to what should be an offensive showcase. The problem is that both teams also have quality defenses, which will also play a factor in who comes out on top.

The good news on both sides of the ball for Northwestern is that sophomore Dalton Clymer showed last week that he is recovered from an early season injury and at 100%. Clymer gives the Tigers another option on the ground, and serves as their anchor for the linebacking corps, which will play a big role against Pottsville.

Senior quarterback Justin Holmes continues to prove to be one of the better quarterbacks in the area both through the air and with his legs, while Cade Christopher gives the Tigers versatility running the ball, catching the ball and throwing an occasional pass. Holmes and Christopher are also important components of the defense that has allowed just over 14 points per game, including a mere six points in their last two games. Offensively, the Tigers put up just under 40 points per game.

The Crimson Tide are no strangers to playing strong defense either, having allowed 15 points per game, while their offense has piled up points to the tune of just under 34 points per game.

“They’re obviously a good team, and they’re a lot like us in that they can put a lot of points on the board, and they have a defense that is tough to move the ball against. They also have the ability to pile up points quickly,” said Snyder. “I know our players are really looking forward to this game. I’m sure their players are just as pumped, and will be ready for us Friday night.”