Eisenhower Football Faces Tough Challenge in Northwestern

The 4-1 Knights will welcome the 4-0 Wildcats in a key Region 2 contest

Keegan Eckstrom TD run
Eisenhower's Keegan Eckstrom finds some space on his way to an 18-yard touchdown run during the second quarter of a game at Union City on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. Eckstrom scored three TDs (two rushing and a kickoff return) and the Knights topped the Bears, 48-26. Photo courtesy Steve Younger.

RUSSELL, Pa. – After an impromptu bye week, Eisenhower football returns to the Pasture of Pain Friday to host arguably its toughest challenger of the season in Northwestern.

The Knights were originally scheduled to face Cochranton last week, but that game was moved up to Sept. 17 as both teams were without opponents due to COVID issues. That left Eisenhower without an opponent for Oct. 1 and gave the Knights an extra week to prepare for this Region 2 showdown.

Eisenhower enters Friday’s contest with a 4-1 overall record (3-1 in Region 2) with the lone blemish a 34-13 defeat at Cochranton. Northwestern comes in with a perfect 4-0 record (4-0 in Region 2) and is outscoring its opponents by an average of 39.5 points. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be carried live on D9and10Sports.com.

The Knights are coming off a 14-0 shutout win over Cambridge Springs, Eisenhower’s second 14-0 shutout win of the season (along with the opener against Saegertown).

The defense bounced back from a rough outing at Cochranton to limit the Blue Devils to just 101 yards of total offense. Shawn Pascuzzi had a pick-6 to open the scoring and Benji Bauer salted the game away with a fourth quarter touchdown run.

In his first career start at quarterback, Pascuzzi was 3-7 passing for 31 yards and had 11 rushing yards on two carries. The passing yards will be hard to come by again this week as the Wildcats are allowing just 54.5 yards per game through the air.

As they have for most of the season, the Knights will likely rely heavily on the run game. Bauer leads the ground attack with 57 carries for 388 yards (6.8 ypc) and six touchdowns. Speedy junior Keegan Eckstrom has 35 totes for 434 yards (12.8 ypc) and five scores. Pascuzzi proved himself a capable runner early in the year as a tailback with 52 rushes for 287 yards (5.5 ypc) and three TDs.

Wyatt Lookenhouse has emerged as a big play receiver with seven catches for 169 yards (24.1 ypc) and two touchdowns. Bauer has six receptions for 43 yards (7.2 ypc) and Eckstrom has two grabs for 72 yards and a score.

Northwestern’s defense has been the definition of the word “stingy” this season. The Wildcats are only giving up 179.5 yards per game and just 4.5 points per game.

Saegertown (12) is the only team to put up more than one score on Northwestern so far this season as the Wildcats have shutout wins over Union City and Maplewood and gave up just six points to Seneca.

Only one player (Union City’s Kyler Shaffer) has gained more than 80 yards on the ground against Northwestern so far this season.

Offensively, the Wildcats deploy an efficient passing attack led by Ryan Tewell. Tewell has completed 27 of 36 passes (75 percent) for 763 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception this season.

Ben Campbell and Gage Hanisek-Brockett lead the Northwestern run game. Campbell has 22 carries for 258 yards (11.7 ypc) and four touchdowns. Hanisek-Brockett has 14 rushes for 178 yards (12.7 ypc) and two scores.

Eric Steinle leads the Wildcats with seven receptions for 262 yards (37.4 ypc) and a touchdown. Jake Kelly also has seven catches for 184 yards (26.3 ypc) and five scores.

Turnovers could be a key factor in the contest as both defenses have been racking up takeaways. Northwestern has six total takeaways (five fumble recoveries and one interception) while Eisenhower has seven (three interceptions, four fumble recoveries).

The Knights’ defense has been able to get to the quarterback this season with Mike Jones (3.0), Drake Vanderhoof (3.5) and company have 12 sacks on the year.