N’western shuts out Saucon Vy.
Northwestern’s Owen Doffield (46) and Conner Snyder combine to tackle Saucon Valley quarterback Dante Mahaffey during Friday’s Colonial League game. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
For the second week in a row an opponent tried to stick primarily to the ground against Northwestern and it didn’t work too well for them.
Saucon Valley threw just seven passes all night — with the first two being picked off by Northwestern defenders. The result was the first shutout for Northwestern’s defense this season and for first-year defensive coordinator Greg Mitchell.
“I couldn’t ask for a better effort from those guys in everything that they do in the weight room and out here,” said Mitchell about his defensive players. “Being my first year, it’s nice to have a bunch of seniors who play their butts off.”
Saucon Valley quarterback Dante Mahaffey went to the air on the third play of the game and found only Tiger defensive back Deven Bollinger there to pull in the pass and take it back the other way for Northwestern. The Tigers were unable to make the Panthers pay for the turnover and the two teams battled up and down the field for the rest of the first quarter without anybody being able to find the end zone.
The Panthers were being contained on the ground and Mahaffey again tried to go to the air, but the ball was tipped by a Saucon Valley receiver and wound up in the hands of Taylor Wikert, who returned the ball 23 yards to the Saucon Valley 20.
This time Northwestern took advantage of the short field and on a third-and-seven, Bollinger threw to the left side where he found Jayden Allen, who bounced off a defender at the one and made it into the end zone. The Tigers went to the Philly Special for the conversion and Nick Henry hit Bollinger to go up 15-0 with 1:07 left in the first half.
After Bollinger hit Dom Harding to finish the first possession of the second half in the end zone, stretching the Tigers lead to 22-0, the defense turned in another big performance. After Saucon Valley converted on a fourth-and-one, the Panthers went to the option play and senior Robbie Goldberg forced a fumble and fell on the ball at the Northwestern 19-yard line.
“We put a lot on Robbie this week and moved him to defensive end to get some bigger bodies on the field. We told him he had the quarterback on the option and he tackled the fullback and the quarterback and took the ball away from them,” said Mitchell. “That was impressive.”
Goldberg has been one of the faces in the crowd of senior players who have all come up big for the Northwestern defense this season. Like many of his teammates, he’s able to be moved into different schemes and handle any of the responsibilities he’s given.
“Defense has been really fun this season, especially with all of the seniors that we have out there,” said Goldberg. “On that option play, I just saw both the running back and the quarterback right there and got both of them and when I saw the ball pop out, I just fell on it.”
Northwestern tacked on a 29-yard run up the middle by Henry for a touchdown. Henryfinished with 92 yards rushing and 91 yards receiving on the night. Lineman Connor Snyder moved to the backfield for the third straight week and got five carries on one drive for Northwestern, pushing the ball over from one-yard out on a third-and-goal.
In addition to the big night for Henry, Bollinger finished with 215 yards passing and another 43 yards rushing as part of the Tigers 370 yards of total offense.
THE LAST TIME ... The team awarded defensive coordinator Mitchell the game ball for his first shutout. The last time Northwestern’s defense pitched a shutout was late last Septemberagainst Palmerton, 49-0. Their last home shutout was on Oct. 6, 2017 when the Tigers beat Bangor, 14-0.
NICE DISGUISE ... Coach Josh Snyder credits the fact that his team runs the same play off different offensive sets and with different personnel in the game with their success offensively. Certain plays like the screen to Henry and a crossing pattern to Harding seem to always work for Northwestern. “We also like to use those plays to set up other plays,” Snyder explained. “Sometimes we’ll fake that screen to Nick [Henry] and throw back the other way and catch teams that way. It’s all in using different personnel and different looks.”
WAIT AND SEE ... Southern Lehigh, the only other Colonial League team with just one loss, plays at Pen Argyl this afternoon. Snyder doesn’t plan on spending much time looking for the score of the game, preferring instead to just worry about what his team does. “I’ll probably look to see what happened,” Snyder said. “But I really only worry about it after 10 games — that’s when it matters.”