Bollinger, Holmes lead NW
Northwestern’s Connor Snyder (58) tries to power through the double-team block of Wilson’s Cayden Stem (12) and Cayden Trimmer (54). NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
EASTON — Saturday was just the second game of the season for Northwestern sophomore Justin Holmes after a hip injury sidelined him early in the season.
You wouldn’t be able to tell judging by his performance.
Holmes hauled in nine catches for 217 yards and three of quarterback Deven Bollinger’s five touchdowns as Northwestern outlasted Wilson, 49-30, in an offensive shootout at the Warriors’ Smith Field.
“Justin Holmes ... it’s only his second game back and he stepped up,” said Bollinger.
The chemistry between the two was evident early and often. The biggest play came midway through the final quarter.
Clinging to a 35-30 lead in the fourth, Northwestern faced a 3rd-and-11 play in Wilson territory. Bollinger put his trust in Holmes, as the two connected on their third touchdown of the day, a 56-yard bomb that gave the Tigers a bit of breathing room with 5:34 to play.
“They were coming back and it was a close game, and we needed something big there,” Holmes said. “He threw me open pretty much. That was a great ball by Deven.”
“Obviously you want an extra weapon out there,” Bollinger added. “Any time you get an extra weapon on the outside, it makes it a lot easier on me. His length out there is key. He’s 6-2 with long arms, so obviously in the red zone and inside the 30-yard line we throw it to him. He made some big plays for us.”
Perhaps even a bigger play came on Wilson’s ensuing drive when Holmes intercepted quarterback Cayden Stem’s pass with under five minutes remaining.
“That felt good,” Holmes said. “It was my first game on defense getting a pick.”
The Tigers would chew up much of the rest of the clock with a nine-play drive. Nick Henry, who ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns, caught one as well from four yards out that put Northwestern in front, 49-30.
The seesaw tipped early on for the teams. Behind its home crowd, Wilson (1-3) jumped in front with a 14-7 lead after two Stem-to-Zach Gillen touchdown connections.
Northwestern, though, stuck with the Warriors toe-to-toe. With a first-quarter touchdown already credited to Paul Huff, Bollinger threw his second of the opening quarter when he hit Holmes for a 63-yard strike that tied the game at 14-14.
“Holmes is the backup quarterback, so we spend a lot of time together, and not just throwing routes,” Bollinger said. “We have a good feel for what each other does.”
The Tigers would go on to score four consecutive touchdowns to increase their lead to 35-14 midway through the third quarter after Henry plunged into the end zone from four yards out. He also scored from two yards out to end the Tigers’ scoring in the first half.
Wilson would have an answer. Damian Simpson returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to get the Warriors within two touchdowns. A 29-yard field goal from Lorenzo Sigue inched Wilson even closer, and a 27-yard touchdown pass from Stem to Dylan Goldsworth got the Warriors within 35-30 with 8:59 to play after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
“I think they were mixing it up,” Bollinger said. “They were running short, short, short, and then they’ll throw one deep on us. That’s something we need to clean up this week. The first two weeks we were rough in the pass defense. Last week we were a little better.”
HISTORY MADE ... A number of Tigers set new school records or tied previous records in the win. Bollinger, who threw five touchdowns in a game three other times prior to Saturday, once again hit that mark as the record holder for most touchdown passes in a single game. Holmes broke Trevor Cunningham’s old record for most receiving yards in a game with his 217 against Wilson.
WHO’S UP NEXT? ... Northwestern next hosts Bangor with a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday. The Slaters (2-2) are coming off a 49-0 loss to Southern Lehigh, the only unbeaten team remaining in the Colonial League.