MUNCY?- When team comes into the first round of the playoffs as the underdog after a crushing defeat in the final game of the regular season, it's pretty difficult to rebound.
And when that team is in a hostile environment against the top seed in the bracket, things can be even tougher.
Northwest stood up to the challenge, though, defeating Muncy, 42-21, Friday night in the first round of the Eastern Conference Class A Playoffs to advance to the finals against Schuylkill Haven.
Even though Northwest came in as the No. 4 seed, it didn't play like it. While riding the back of running back Tony Politz, the Rangers came out playing fast and furious. Politz, whom rushed for a 55-yard touchdown on his second touch of the game, eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark before the end of the first quarter.
"Tony Politz is a great runner," said Northwest head coach Carl Majer. "You think you have him and he gets by and breaks it. He got yards when he wasn't supposed to. He's a great running back and hopefully he can get it going next week."
With Northwest playing nearly flawless, the Indians made crucial mistakes to bury themselves in the first half. A holding penalty erased an Anthony Barberio touchdown run and two interceptions set up the Rangers deep in Muncy territory.
"We played pretty crappy," said Muncy senior running back Troy Hembury. "We really underestimated them and we came out lackadaisical. They just outplayed us."
Normally relying on senior running back Troy Hembury, Muncy was met with a six-man defensive front from Northwest, limiting Hembury's room to run.
Hembury rushed for just 82 yards on the night and failed to find the end zone for a Muncy offense that struggled finding any ground game.
"We run a 5-3 defense and it's a stack off of that and we blitz and stunt off of that," Majer said. "I've been running it for five years and it's just a great team effort and hats off to Muncy. Those kids played their butts off and the have a great running back, it just didn't go their way tonight."
And along with limiting Hembury to just one run over three yards in the first half, the Rangers' defensive line created havoc in the backfield, as defensive tackle John Yaple clogged up the middle of the line and Alex Barrets sacked Barberio three times in the first half - before racking up 5.5 for the game.
"Barrets has been playing and it's his first full season," Majer said of his senior lineman. "He has been playing great the last few weeks and our leading tackler was out with a knee injury and that really hurt us."
With the running game stagnant, the Indians adjusted as Barberio made Ken Koch his new favorite target through the air, working Koch out of the slot and finding him on quick slants to move up the field in big chunks.
Koch got eight passes for 193 yards, but the effort wasn't enough against a Northwest team that rebounded from a 19-7 loss to Montrose last week.
"We have been saying it all year long that it depends on what team shows up," Majer said. "We play a lot of young guys and tonight they came back from playing flat last week and while being beat up they came out and played a great game tonight."