Tigers, Roughies have something to play for
Northwestern opened the season with a number of young players replacing graduating seniors and nobody was quite sure what to expect. While there have been some rough spots, the Tigers have seen some of the young players develop well in their first full varsity season as starters, leaving things in good shape moving forward.
One challenge greets the Tigers this week as they travel to Catasauqua to play the Rough Riders in the final game of the regular season, and look to improve their record to an even .500 on the season, and possibly get into the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
While Northwestern (4-5) has something tangible to play for against Catasauqua, the Roughies (2-7) are actually playing for a possible District 11 berth in the 2A bracket.
“We can’t take anything for granted, because they’re going to come into this game looking to win, especially for their seniors. It’s their last [regular season] high school home game and they want to go out with a win, so they’ll be ready to play,” said Northwestern coach Josh Snyder.
Catasauqua is averaging just over 300 yards per game in offense, with most of it coming in the air. On the ground, Northwestern has to focus on stopping lead running back K.J. Reiss, who averages just under five yards per carry and has six rushing touchdowns.
The passing game is the better part of the Rough Riders offense, with quarterback Andrew Brett throwing for over 1,500 yards on the season. One of the keys to the passing game is that Brett doesn’t focus on any one receiver. Instead, he spreads the ball around, with three different receivers having 35 or more catches.
“It makes it tougher when you have two or three guys that he feels comfortable with,” said Snyder. “You have to hold your coverage and it will be important to get some pressure on him and not let him sit back there and look for someone to break open.”
Northwestern’s offense is banged up, to say the least. Phillip Dangello didn’t play at all last week against Northern Lehigh, Caleb Clymer was limited to playing only on defense and Tyler Foster went down with a dislocated shoulder during the game. The rash of injuries caused Northwestern to move lead receiver Trevor Cunningham into the backfield against the Bulldogs. Cunningham did a nice job, with over 100 yards rushing, but it’s likely no coincidence that freshman quarterback Deven Bollinger completed just one pass in the game, with that pass going to Cunningham.
“Cunningham just does whatever we ask him to, but there’s no doubt that with all of the injuries that we’ve had, it’s making us change what we do offensively,” said Snyder. “We’re not sure who is going to be back this week or how much they’ll be able to play.”
Catasauqua defensively can have some trouble stopping the run, so having a healthy Dangello would be a big boost to the Northwestern offense. If not, Cunningham may see even more time in the backfield as the Tigers look to exploit their bigger, more physical offensive line against the Catty defense.
Both teams are coming into the game off three-game losing skids with something to play for. For Northwestern, it’s the first time since the end of the 2012 season that they’ve lost three straight and they’ll look to avoid losing their last four games in that season.