Northwestern defense stops Tide
When teams with explosive offenses and strong defenses matchup, something has to give.
Friday night at Tiger Stadium, it was the defenses that had the upper hand as Northwestern Lehigh remained undefeated with a 22-14 win over Pottsville.
Both offenses relied on running the ball and the number of big plays was limited by the defensive play on both sides.
Quarterbacks Justin Holmes of Northwestern and Jazce Carabello-Snowell of Pottsville traded one-yard touchdown runs early in the game. Pottsville’s came when Jason Fermaintt recovered a fumble at the Northwestern 40-yard line, and six plays later, Carabello-Snowell went in for the go-ahead score to make it 7-0.
It looked like another turnover – this time an interception – was going to derail Northwestern Lehigh’s (8-0) next drive, but the play was nullified by a personal foul call prior to the pass. That was just the break the Tigers needed, and four plays later, Holmes tied the game with his TD run.
Northwestern picked up a key sack on a fourth-and-seven play on the next drive, and again, their offense took advantage of the situation and marched 78 yards with Cade Christopher going in from four yards out. The Tigers went for the two-point conversion and failed, leaving the score at 13-7.
“Our defense came up with some big plays just when we needed them,” said Northwestern coach Josh Snyder. “We have some guys who have really stepped up for us, guys like Ben Dunstan had a big game tonight. Drew [Sabo] always flies around out there, he’s not the biggest guy but he goes up against some tough dudes and makes plays.”
Holmes picked up his second rushing TD of the night after Pottsville (6-2) turned the ball over on downs on a failed fourth-and-one play where the defensive line stuffed Amari Dunn on a run up the middle.
After the touchdown, the Tigers again went for two, but again came up empty putting the score at 19-7.
Northwestern Lehigh’s defense flexed its muscle on the next drive when Lucas Miller sacked Carabell-Snowell, and on the next play, the senior quarterback looked like he had a long connection with Dunn, but Evan Anderson was able to knock the ball away, leaving the Crimson Tide with a third-and-15.
Again, the defense was the story as Dunstan caught Carabello-Snowell in the backfield for an eight yard loss. Pottsville went for a big strike on the next play, but Holmes picked off the pass in the end zone with :07 left in the first half.
“I love great competition, games like this are the best,” said Holmes, who finished with 166 yards and two touchdowns rushing and 66 yards passing in the game. “We played well on both sides of the ball and came up big when we needed to. These close games are great, especially when there’s so much on the line.”
Luke Benvin came up with a 22-yard field goal midway through the third quarter to go up 22-7, but the Tide got a big run from Travontai Davis on the next offensive play as the senior nearly broke free for the end zone, but had to settle for a 47-yard run to give Pottsville a first-and-10 at the Northwestern 22-yard line. On a second-and-eight play from the Northwestern nine, Davis got the first down and more when he finished the drive with a touchdown. The extra-point made it a one-score game at 22-14 with 4:00 left in the third quarter.
The teams traded punts and Pottsville had the ball at their own 19 with 7:03 left to play. The Tide were driving when another sack set them back and on a fourth-and-three play, Carabello-Snowell was sacked by Holmes and fumbled. The ball was recovered by Dalton Clymer and with 3:56 left, the Tigers had the ball at the Tide’s 33-yard line. From there, Holmes just kept pushing his way through the Pottsville line on six straight carries. Finally with a fourth-and-one at the Crimson Tide’s 11-yard line, Holmes rushed for three yards and a first down. With no timeouts, Pottsville was unable to stop the clock and Northwestern left with the win.
OPPOSITE SIDELINES THIS TIME
… Coaches Josh Snyder and Tom McGeoy were on opposite teams this time around, but they spent time together on the same sideline when they both played their college football at Lehigh University. “I’m glad I got the upper-hand in our first meeting,” said Snyder.
... Saucon Valley (4-4) next week and Catasauqua (6-2) in the finale are the only teams standing between the Tigers and an undefeated season.