Northwestern Lehigh Uses Big Second Half To Knock Off Wyomissing Area, 33-24
KUTZTOWN – Northwestern Lehigh head coach Josh Snyder faced down his team in the locker room down 17-7 and said, “We play like this again in the second half like we did in the first half this will be the last time this season we take our equipment off.” Senior running back Dalton Clymer responded to Snyder and said, “This is not going to be the last time I take this equipment off.”
Clymer and his teammates made true to his word as they overcame a first-half deficit to defeat Wyomissing 33-24 in the PIAA 3A State Semifinal on Friday night at Kutztown University’s Andre Reed Stadium. For the first time in school history, the Northwestern Lehigh Tigers (15-0) will be playing for a PIAA State Championship next Saturday at Cumberland Valley’s Chapman Field against defending 3A Champion, Belle Vernon.
“Leading a team to a State Championship game are words that I have never said, or thought was going to happen,” Snyder said. “When you become a coach, getting to and winning a State Championship game is obviously the goal. We have had many good football teams that have come through here and were eliminated in different rounds. There are a lot of great football teams out there, including Wyomissing, and it is tough to win one in this state. These guys have been different in all aspects of the game, and no one is in awe of any opponent coming in. We dig in and practice and they absorb everything we give them.”
Early on it seemed Wyomissing (12-2) was going to control the game with its potent Wing-T offense as they built their 17-7 lead at the half. The Spartans dominated on the line of scrimmage, and they forced the Tigers into bad field position. The Tigers did themselves no favors in the first half by committing eight first-half penalties for 63 yards and had a Spartans punt bounce off a leg of one of their players that set up Wyomissing for a field goal.
“These kids refused to lay down and roll over,” Snyder said. “Things could not have gone worse on offense in the first half with being backed up it seemed every drive and many penalties. Our defense was still playing well and I said ‘Keep fighting, get a stop, and clean our acts up.”
The Spartans struck first by racing 51 yards down the field in five plays and Drew Eisenhower capped the drive with his 23-yard touchdown run, picking up where he left off last week with four touchdowns in a win over Danville. The Tigers answered back and tied the game at seven in the final minute of the first quarter when Clymer took a screen pass 25 yards to the end zone on 4th and 7.
“That play was set up by the great blocking I had downfield with the ball,” Clymer said. “At no point did I think I was going down. The blocking from our line and receivers were tremendous.”
The Tigers finally had the Spartans backed up past the Wyomissing 40-yard line for the first time to start the second quarter, but a 43-yard punt from Collin Niedrowski pinned the Tigers at their own 1. A three-and-out plus short punt to their own 23 set the Spartans to go up 14-7 on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Logan Hyde to Ryker Jones with just over five minutes left in the 2nd quarter.
“We apply a lot of pressure and I think our success on defense helped keep our offense fresh in the first half,” Wyomissing Head Coach Bob Wolfrum said. “It kept us in the game and as the half wore on we could not do anything with them nor stop them. We just could not keep it going.”
A block in the back penalty on the ensuing kickoff set Northwestern Lehigh inside their own 10 and they eventually punted to put Wyomissing just at their own 47-yard line. They got a stop, however, the Spartans’ punt bounced off the leg of a Tiger to put Wyomissing at Northwestern’s 25-yard line. Spartans kicker Keegan Maher lined up and drilled Wyomissing’s first and only field goal attempt of the season from 39 yards out to end the first half.
Turnovers had been the thing the Tigers’ defense had thrived off all season as they forced 29 entering tonight’s contest. When they needed their first of this game, they turned to Eli Zimmerman, who picked off Hyde on the Spartans at the Tigers 25-yard line on the opening drive of the second half for his astounding 10th interception of the season.
“That interception was on a third and long and Eli just makes the plays we need to on defense,” Snyder said. “He had a couple of amazing tackles, nearly another interception on the last drive of the game, and a heck of a pass break-up that he forced out of the kid’s hands. He knows everything that goes on back there and he communicates everything to the secondary. To keep Wyomissing to three scores plus a field goal after what they do this year, and every year is truly an amazing defensive performance.”
The interception turned the tide of the contest as Tigers quarterback Shane Leh brought his offense to life with a 41-yard run down the right sideline before racing 26 yards into the end zone to make it a 17-14 game at the 5:42-mark of the third quarter. Northwestern forced a three-and-out and used good field position of their own to ground-and-pound 46 yards down the field to take their first lead of the night at 20-17 when Daniel Jenkins scored from three yards out.
A false start on 4th and 1 from the Tiger 11-yard line brought Maher back onto the field and tied the game at 20 with a 33-yard field goal, or so he thought. A roughing the kicker penalty gave the Spartans drive new life and Eisenhower pushed his way into the end zone on 4th and Goal from the 1 to put Wyomissing ahead at 24-20 with 5:43 left in regulation. Hyde valiantly scrambled 18 yards on 3rd and Goal from the 18 to set up Eisenhower’s chance.
However, at this point, the Tigers’ offense was clicking on all cylinders. Northwestern responded and took the lead back for good with 2:57 left in regulation following a clutch 6-yard run out of the wildcat from Devon Hildebrand on 4th and 3. Hildebrand already had come through in a big way earlier in the drive when he took a screen pass up the middle 39 yards that put the Tigers at the Spartan 13-yard line.
“That has always been our big-hitter,” Hildebrand said. “We go to it in times of need, and I saw green grass with my lineman blocking. It was all I could have asked for.”
Wyomissing needed a quick strike, and they turned to their passing game that does not often get used when their Wing-T is rolling. Hyde went 1-of-3 on the Spartans’ next drive which handed the ball back to the Tigers deep in their own end. Clymer put the exclamation point on the Tigers win with a pair of runs and his second touchdown of the game.
“We had to throw we did not have the time to move the ball how we normally do,” Wolfrum said. “We had too much to make up and when we had to start throwing full time, that is simply not our game.”
Hyde finished 7-of-17 with a touchdown pass and two interceptions. The seven completions were a career-high and his 17 pass attempts blitzed his previous career-high total of 10 set back in a thrilling 35-34 win over Trinity on September 8th.
The Tigers totaled 285 total yards and limited the Spartans to 265 yards with 199 of that coming on the ground. Leh went 7-of-12 through the air for 111 yards and one touchdown while adding 62 yards on the ground off 11 carries and another touchdown.
For Wyomissing, their fourth-straight 3A State Semifinal appearance ended the same way it did last year, but the work the Spartans have done over the past four seasons is nothing to be overlooked. Wyomissing is 48-5 since the start of the 2020 season and their 40 wins over the past three are the most by a Berks County team in history.
“Every year this senior class has won the district and been to this round,” Wolfrum said. “They were fun to coach and I am super proud of everything they have done for our program.”
For Snyder, as a high-school athlete at Northwestern Lehigh, saw his team come up short in this very round in 1997 to South Williamsport. Now he has a chance to deliver a State Championship to his alma mater.
“It is a surreal feeling for sure,” Snyder said. “I am proud of these kids from top to bottom and what they have done. We are just some guys from New Tripoli going out to Cumberland Valley to play for a state final next weekend.”
Clymer, the Tigers lead back, finished with 120 all-purpose yards behind 92 yards on 17 carries and two catches for 28 yards.
“It feels amazing to be playing for a state final,” Clymer said. “We have been breaking records all year and making history for this school and it is another notch in our belt,”
The next time Clymer and his Tiger teammates take their equipment off will be next Saturday afternoon and they hope to be holding a State Championship trophy while doing so.
|SCORE BY QUARTERS
|Eisenhower, 23 run (Maher kick)
|Clymer 25 pass from Leh (Kern kick)
|Jones, 3 pass from Hyde (Maher kick)
|Maher, 39 FG
|Leh, 26 run (Kern kick)
|Jenkins, 3 run (kick failed)
|Eisenhower, 1 run (Maher kick)
|Hildebrand, 6 run (Kern kick)
|Clymer, 2 run (kick failed)
NW Lehigh: Clymer 17-92, Leh 11-62, Hildebrand 2-10, Matson 1-5, Zimmerman 2-4, Jenkins 1-3, TEAM 1-(-2)
Wyomissing: Eisenhower 16-72, Jones 7-59, Hyde 6-34, Hardy 6-17, Macrina 6-16, Marv. Armistead 1-1, Niedrowski 3-0, Diaz 2-0
NW Lehigh: Leh 7-12-0–111, Bollinger 0-1–0
Wyomissing: Hyde 7-12-2–66
NW Lehigh: Clymer 2-28, Matson 2-24, Hildebrand 1-39, Bollinger 1-18, Zimmerman 1-2
Wyomissing: Eisenhower 2-19, Blickley 1-24, Neff 1-12, Brower 1-6, Jones 1-3, Hardy 1-2
NW Lehigh: Zimmerman, Jenkins
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