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Tigers aim to tame Palisades

Published September 06. 2018 03:44PM

It’s test time for the Northwestern Tigers defense. Against Cole DeFranco and the high-powered Notre Dame defense in Week 1, Northwestern gave up 41 points. Not really much to worry about since DeFranco and his buddies can put a lot of points on the board in a hurry.

Last week, the Tigers shut down the Salisbury passing game in the second half and didn’t allow a completed pass, with the Falcons failing to connect on their last 15 pass attempts.

This week, Palisades brings true firepower as they pound away at having gained over 1,000 yards rushing in their first two games of the season. They’ve scored 110 points and are 2-0.

Every now and then, Pirates quarterback Ethan Brader throws the ball, as he’s gone 2-for-9 in passing for 28 yards and one interception. Instead, Brader does what Tigers junior quarterback Deven Bollinger did to the Crusaders in Week 1 — tears apart their defense with his legs.

Brader has rushed for 350 yards, while running back Trey Gretzinger has 413 yards on 31 carries for an average of 13.3 yards per carry.

“This is going to be a test to see just where our defense is at stopping the run,” said coach Josh Snyder. “Our defensive line is playing really well, so we’re challenging them to step up this week and at least slow these guys down a little. You can’t plan on stopping them, but you can hope to kind of keep them in check.”

The offensive numbers need to be tempered somewhat by realizing that Palisades has beaten Wilson and Palmerton in the first two weeks, two teams not exactly known for having defenses that inspire fear.

Where it will get interesting is to see how much Snyder goes to the air in an attempt to open things up for the ground game. Bollinger has become a dual-threat with his arm and legs, and the Tigers may look to mix-and-match running the ball and passing it, hoping for results like they saw in the opener against Notre Dame – Green Pond. In that game, Bollinger threw for 109 yards and rushed for 139.

Sophomore Nick Henry has put together back-to-back 100-yard games for Northwestern, and the offensive line is accomplishing their task of being a tough, physical line capable of opening holes in a defense.

“I’m confident in our guys to run the ball, and that’s what we’re trying to establish,” said Snyder. “Nick [Henry] has been solid in the first couple of weeks and Deven [Bollinger] is going to be a threat, plus, we have some other guys to pick up some carries along the way. The bottom line though is that Deven isn’t just a one-dimensional guy. He can put the ball up and hurt a team that way, so we’ll just play to our strengths.

“We know how good this Palisades team can be,” said Snyder. “They’ve shown how tough they are in the first two weeks, and we knew even right when the schedule came out that this would be one of the tougher games on the schedule. We just have to go out and play our game and be physical against them.”

Northwestern comes into the game relatively healthy with no considerable injuries. Tyler Slifer was banged up in Game 1 but was back on the field last week and Anthony Colucci returned to the field after missing over a full season with hamstring issues.

Palisades and Northwestern are two of the four undefeated teams in the Colonial League. Both Northern Lehigh and Saucon Valley are also off to 2-0 starts.

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