Tigers keep rolling to their 7th straight vic­tory

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Keith Groller

When you have a four-year starter at quar­ter­back who’s likely to end his ca­reer with most of the school’s of­fen­sive records, it’s easy for your de­fense to get over­looked.

But the North­west­ern Le­high Tigers re­minded Sau­con Val­ley and the rest of the Colo­nial League Fri­day night that they can play qual­ity de­fense as well as score be­hind the po­tent Deven Bollinger-led of­fense.

North­west­ern got its first shutout since a 49-0 blank­ing of Palmer­ton on Sept. 28, shak­ing off a slow start to rout the in­jury-plagued Pan­thers 36-0 in New Tripoli.

Bollinger com­pleted 19 of 26 passes for 217 yards and three touch­downs.

Nick Henry had one of the TD re­cep­tions along with six other catches for 91 yards and added 90 yards rush­ing as the Tigers won their seventh straight to re­main in first place in the league. South­ern Le­high can re­gain a share of the lead with a win at Pen Ar­gyl Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon.

Tiger take­aways

In hand­ing Sau­con Val­ley its first shutout loss since a 31-0 de­feat to South­ern Le­high on Oct. 18, 2013, North­west­ern’s de­fense in­ter­cepted two passes and had a fum­ble re­cov­ery.

Bollinger and sopho­more Tay­lor Wik­ert had the in­ter­cep­tions and Robert Gold­berg re­cov­ered the loose ball that stopped the Pan­thers best scor­ing chance of the night at the Tigers 18 with 2:52 left in the third quar­ter.

“We al­ways fo­cus on get­ting turnovers but some­times they’re just part of the game,” said North­west­ern’s first-year de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Mitchell. “Tonight was our first forced fum­ble in eight games. It’s go­ing to hap­pen even­tu­ally if you keep fly­ing to the foot­ball.”

Mitchell, the son of former Tigers head coach Bob Mitchell, was pleased to get his first shutout in charge of the de­fense.

“I couldn’t ask for a bet­ter group,” he said. “They work their butts off. I’ve been in the weight room with the se­niors for four years. They bat­tle. It’s nice as a de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor when you have an of­fense that can score as many points as ours does. It takes a lit­tle of the load off, but we have great kids and we work well as a de­fen­sive staff.”

Join­ing Mitchell on the de­fen­sive side of the ball is Josh Zim­mer­man and Ryan Hul­mes, who is in his first sea­son with the Tigers af­ter coach­ing at Park­land.

“I gave [Greg Mitchell] the game ball tonight in our postgame hud­dle,” Tigers head coach Josh Sny­der said. “As a de­fen­sive guy, you hang your hat on get­ting a shutout. We were close to get­ting one ear­lier this year at Pal­isades but they scored against our sec­ond team. Tonight, we had the sec­ond team in there for the last two se­ries and they got the job done.”

Sau­con Val­ley was limited to 134 yards in to­tal of­fense — 75 yards com­ing on the ground from run­ning back Bray­dyn Lu­gardo — and seven first downs.

Slow start

Sny­der said he was con­cerned about a po­ten­tial let­down com­ing off the emo­tional 36-34 win over pre­vi­ously un­beaten South­ern Le­high last week and feared it could be­come a trap game with ri­val North­ern Le­high up next.

Those fears seemed mer­ited when North­west­ern turned the ball over on downs on their first three pos­ses­sions, in­clud­ing a drive that ended at the Sau­con 4.

But once the Tigers got go­ing, they couldn’t be stopped. They scored touch­downs on five straight pos­ses­sions.

“We had a few sput­ters in the red zone in the first quar­ter, but then we picked it up,” Bollinger said. “The run­ning game got it go­ing and that opened up the pass­ing game.”

Bollinger has thrown for nearly 6,600 yards in his ca­reer and 87 touch­down passes.

Wounded Pan­thers

First-year Sau­con Val­ley coach Brad Trem­bler didn’t want to make ex­cuses, but his team wasn’t close to be­ing at full strength with sev­eral key play­ers side­lined.

Ty Csenc­sits, Chris Mann, Evan Deily, Dale Sorensen and Ai­den Ren­ninger were among the play­ers who ei­ther didn’t play or were hurt dur­ing the game.

“Our kids played hard and we went toe-to-toe with them for al­most the en­tire first half re­gard­less of who was in or out,” Trem­bler said. “We’ve just got to clean some things up, but that’s a very good foot­ball team over there that’s go­ing to play a long time into Novem­ber.”

RICK KINTZEL/THE MORN­ING CALL

North­west­ern Le­high line­backer Derek He­belka (54) com­bines with de­fen­sive line­man Robert Gold­berg (77) to stop Sau­con Val­ley run­ning back Bray­dyn Lu­gardo for a loss in the first quar­ter Fri­day night. The Tigers rolled to a 36-0 win, be­com­ing the first team to shut out Sau­con Val­ley since 2013.

RICK KINTZEL/THE MORN­ING CALL

North­west­ern Le­high quar­ter­back Deven Bollinger (13) is hit by Sau­con Val­ley de­fen­sive line­man Eli Deily in the first quar­ter Fri­day.

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