Here we go again! A high-stakes battle on the (soggy?) Saucon Valley turf between two very talented teams. It will be a rematch between 2014 Colonial League champions. Saucon Valley is looking to stay unbeaten. Northwestern is looking to avoid a second loss. Both teams will be looking to keep their 2015 Colonial League championship hopes alive.
Northwestern Lehigh (3-1) has been averaging 34-points per game and has only given up an average of 9. The Tigers three wins are over Pen Argyl, Bangor and Wilson. All three teams are winless so far this season. Make no mistake about it though, this Northwestern Lehigh Tiger team is a formidable Panther opponent. Saucon will have to be at their best to take down these Tigers.
Things Worth Watching:
When the Panthers have the ball…..
The Panther offense averages 465-yards of total offense per game and revolves around Evan Culver (#3) and quarterback Zach Thatcher (#7). The two have been outstanding with their offensive run production behind the “Hogs”. Culver is approaching the Saucon Valley High School records books and is averaging 190-yards per game. Culver rushed for 1,700 yards last year and currently has 760-yards and 12 td’s so far this season. Thatcher is proving to be a true dual threat quarterback having run for 7 td’s and thrown for three. Mike Kane (#82) for the Panthers has caught a touchdown pass in the past two games. Look, again, for the Panthers to run first and pass second. The Panther running attack has been unstoppable and play-action passes could keep the Tigers off balance.
The Tigers and their base 4-4 defense is stingy about giving up points. In four games they have given up a total of 37 points. In their only defeat against Notre Dame on opening night, they gave up 30. Coach Evancho noted “Their defense runs to the ball well and plays aggressive. Chet Karpyn (#68) is a solid defensive tackle and Harry Hall (#4), is a quick linebacker.” Karpyn and Hall are both seniors. Karpyn is listed at 5’11”, 260 while Hall is a stick of dynamite at 5’9″, 178.
Northwestern, like the other Panther opponents, will likely game-plan to try and smother the Panther run game. Look for the Tigers to match up and single cover the Saucon receivers and commit all other defenders to the run. The Panthers receiving corps of Mike Kane (#82), Nate Harka (#21) and Alstan Wolfe (#5) will need to win their fair share of battles against the Northwestern defensive backs.
A look back to 2014 shows us that Northwestern Lehigh had success limiting Saucon’s offense. Last year at Northwestern the Panthers were held to eight 1st downs and only 143-yards of total offense. 2015 is a new year and the Panthers, no doubt, have learned and will adjust.
When the Tigers have the ball…..
The biggest Tiger to tame is senior Harry Hall (#4). Hall has over 4,000 career rushing yards and 45-td’s. He is a playmaker. Last year, Hall ran for 240-yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns against the Panthers. This year Hall has rushed for 618 yards and 9 td’s so far. He will be fun to watch.
Christian Carvis (#53) and the rest of the Saucon defense have their work cut out for them against the Tiger offense. Defensive coordinator, Chris Labatch shared, “Hall is their big threat, and he is as good as advertised. As a unit, they have a be-physical mentality like Northern Lehigh. Their offensive line is big upfront and their QB is an athlete who can run and throw. They like to throw to their tight end and their wide-outs are more than capable of making big plays. We have to play a great game defensively to keep them in check.”
Northwestern Lehigh likes to utilize a variety of shotgun formations on offense. Sometimes its a one-back set, sometimes two. The Tigers try to motion and misdirect their way down the field. Aside from Hall, keep an eye on senior quarterback Dylan Snyder (#6). He, like Thatcher, can throw and has little trouble using his feet to make big plays.
Both teams are very capable and well-coached. The teams may have to adjust to sloppy field conditions due to the soaking rains. If both squads can play a clean game in terms of penalties and turnovers, this is going to be very close. If Culver and Hall somehow cancel each other out, it will come down to the production of the quarterbacks that will be the difference. Thatcher and Snyder have both proven they can run and scramble, but which of the two will be able to more consistently hook up with their receivers on this night? Saucon Source will be there in rain-gear to find out. How ’bout you?
Proud Panther Parent Prediction: 28-14
Karen Kane (Mother of Mike): “Saucon Valley will win. Northwestern has a good team this year, but the Panthers are primed to avenge their only regular season loss last year.”