Coach (season, record): D.J. Hough (2nd season, 5-6)
2011 overall record: 5-6
2011 region record (place): 3-3 (tied for third)
2011 playoff results: Lost to Hickory 33-12 in the District 10 Class AA quarterfinals.
Top players lost: Aaron Morley, Adam Alexander, Cody Parmerter
Top returning players: Chad Roberts, Garrett Behringer, Tom Head, Grant Panko, Kyle McKeen
Assistant coaches: Ron Glus, Dave Randall, Dave Merritt
Outlook: Northwestern made strides under first-year coach D.J. Hough last fall. The Wildcats made the playoffs and hung with District 10 champion Hickory for the first half. Northwestern will have to plug some holes in order to repeat that success. The Wildcats lost several key players to graduation, including all-region running back Aron Morley and all-region linemen Adam Alexander and Cody Parmerter. Morley, who was a first-team defensive lineman and second-team running back, ran for 1,053 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior. He also had 32 tackles and one sack. Alexander was a second-team offensive lineman and Parmerter a second-team defensive lineman.
Grant Panko is back to lead the offense after throwing for 466 yards and six touchdowns last fall. He also ran for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Also back is playmaker Kyle McKeen, a second-team wide receiver. He caught six passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns last year and his speed along with his arm can be confusing for defenses. McKeen can take pitches and run the ball and can step back throw it downfield. Garrett Behreinger is back to anchor the defense after being voted to the all-region second team at linebacker.
Northwestern has an interesting schedule this season. The Wildcats will take on a talented team on each level. Northwestern plays Class AAA Meadville, Class AA Greenville and Class A Mercyhurst Prep to go along with a solid region schedule. The Wildcats hit the road for three of their first four games but get most of their key games at home. Northwestern hosts Girard, Corry, North East and Fairview in Region 4 play. The Wildcats have to win on the road to boost their record but taking care of business at home would be a huge help.
31 at Meadville 7
7 at Seneca* 7
14 Girard* 7
21 at Harbor Creek* 7
28 Corry* 7
5 at Fort LeBoeuf* 7
12 Greenville 7
19 North East* 7
26 Fairview* 7
2 at Mercyhurst Prep 7
*Region 4 games
Wednesday: Oil City
– Tom Reisenweber