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OT thriller NW’s overtime win highlights Week 1

Published August 30. 2018 03:36PM

The opening week of the high school football season was a successful one for local schools.

Six of the nine Times News area teams picked up victories. There were dominating performances (Jim Thorpe and Tamaqua), second-half comebacks (Lehighton and Panther Valley), and also a win to snap a long losing streak (Northern Lehigh).

But the most exciting game of the opening weekend is where we’ll go with our initial Overtime column of the season — and what better way to kick off Overtime than with an overtime game.

Northwestern’s “walk-off” victory over Notre Dame had everything a fan could want from a great high school football game. There were numerous big plays, a great back-and-forth flow, a dramatic late-game score to force overtime, and finally a clutch score and conversion to win it in the end.

It’s the type of game that Northwestern hasn’t won the last couple of seasons. The Tigers have had back-to-back losing campaigns, including a 4-7 mark a year ago.

But Northwestern is determined to make this season different.

“We’ve been working and grinding since last December, trying to prepare for moments like Friday night,” said Tiger head coach Josh Snyder. “All the time in the weight room, at passing camps, at summer workouts ... it’s nice that our kids got to see all their hard work pay off.”

When a program is trying to turn things around, sometimes the hardest thing to do is believe you can win when things go wrong.

Snyder said how his team responded to those situations was one of the things that made him most proud.

“We hadn’t won a big game the last two seasons, but you would have never known that by how our kids played,” he said. “There was no lack of confidence, no dropping our heads when things went wrong. These kids believed they were going to find a way to win the game and they did.”

There were several opportunities where doubt could have slipped into the Tigers’ mindset, none more obvious than a late-game fumble that allowed Notre Dame to force OT.

“We have the lead and we’re one first down away from icing the game,” said Snyder. “But we turn it over and the next thing you know, the game is tied and we’re going to overtime.

“But I give a lot of credit to some of our team leaders. They made sure no one was thinking ‘here we go again.’”

Snyder mentioned seniors Tyler Lobach, Derek Holmes, Tyler Slifer, Ryan Haas and Hayden Bobbyn, junior quarterback Deven Bollinger, and sophomore running back Nick Henry as players who not only stepped up on the field, but also showed great leadership as well.

“We have a great bunch of kids,” said Snyder. “It’s a very team-oriented group. They believe in each other and encourage each other.

“We had a lot of that going on Friday, especially late in the game and in overtime. Everyone believed we were going to win.”

When Northwestern answered a Notre Dame score with Bollinger’s 2-yard touchdown run in overtime, the game was tied at 41. Connor de Wit’s extra-point then sent the Northwestern sideline and bleachers into a frenzy.

“One game doesn’t make a season, but I’m extremely proud of our performance against a very good Notre Dame team,” said Snyder. “Now we need to build on it.”

A confident team with a winning attitude, Northwestern appears poised to do just that.

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LENGTHY PICK-SIX ... Palmerton’s Cody Waterhouse gave his team a lead in the first half last week when he picked off a Palisades pass and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown.

That pick-six was the longest by a Blue Bomber player since Oct. 28, 2005 (132 games ago) when Aaron Schweibinz intercepted a pass and took it 96 yards to the house.

In fact, over the last 25 seasons, there have only been seven interception returns for touchdowns of 90 yards or more. Besides the two Palmerton ones, the others include Tamaqua’s Ricky Cipko (2001) and Dalton Nunemacher (2012), Northern Lehigh’s Matt Sutjak (2004), Lehighton’s Jon Strauss (2011), and Pleasant Valley’s Charlie Mertz (1999).

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GREAT OPENING ACT ... Jim Thorpe’s CJ Selby had a great start to the season, rushing for 229 yards and three touchdowns in a win against Schuylkill Haven last Friday.

In the past 30 years, Selby’s figure ranks fifth best in the Times News area (and first among Olympian players) for rushing yards during the first week of the season.

The most on opening night was 324 by Lehighton’s Robbie Frey in 2005. The other three ahead of Selby are Palmerton’s Mike Stasko (248 in 2015), Marian’s Paul Martin (245 in 2011), and Northern Lehigh’s Nick Hosford (245 in 2005).

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SECOND-HALF SUCCESS ... Panther Valley trailed Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech by an 8-6 score at halftime, but rebounded and eventually won a 28-22 decision last Friday.

Coming back from a halftime deficit has been a rarity for the Panthers recently. In fact, PV had lost 41 straight games when trailing after two quarters. Its last comeback win was in 2013 against Shenandoah Valley when the Panthers faced a 15-6 deficit and rallied for a 34-21 victory.

In the past 20 years, Panther Valley had been 8-126 when trailing at halftime.

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CENTURY MARK TIMES TWO ... Northwestern’s Deven Bollinger had a memorable game last Friday, leading his team to an overtime victory over Notre Dame.

Bollinger, whose touchdown run coupled with Connor de Wit’s extra point provided the winning points, ran for 136 yards and threw for 108 against the Crusaders.

The junior quarterback became just the second Tigers player to run and throw for 100 yards in the same game. Bollinger joins Ty Cunningham, who accomplished the feat three times during the 2011 season.

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