By ROB HAMILTON
Northmor nearly clawed back from a 20-point deficit in the final quarter in their season-opening home game against Crestview, but fell short by a 27-19 margin.
Things didn’t look good for the Knights late in the third quarter after a Cougar score gave them a 27-19 advantage with 58 seconds remaining in that period; however, they would respond and come close to potentially tying the score before the fourth had ended.
Northmor immediately responded to that Cougar touchdown by driving 78 yards in only five plays. Quarterback Jake Farley hit Demetrius Johnson for a 10-yard gain and connected with Frank Keller for 11 more before returning to Johnson for a deep pass that covered 57 yards and resulted in a touchdown to make the score 27-13 with 11:09 remaining.
The Knight defense would then bend, but not break. Crestview took the ball from their 42 down to the Knight 26 before the home team started pushing their opponents backwards. An 11-yard loss on a fourth-down sack would give Northmor respectable field position at their 45 and they would take advantage of that.
Gunnar Lilly moved the Knights into the red zone with a 38-yard run on third-and-eight and two plays later, Farley hit Johnson again for a six-yard touchdown to bring the Knights within eight points with just under five minutes to play.
Northmor would quickly earn another chance to score. After surrendering a 21-yard run to Dawson Lafever that moved the ball to the Knight 34, Northmor forced a fumble to get the ball on their 26. They would be able to hold the ball for 11 plays, moving down to the Cougar 32, but would turn it over on downs. From there, Crestview took a knee twice to run out the clock and escape with the win.
For Knight coach B.J. Trainer, it was a game of two halves. After his team struggled to either move the ball or stop the Cougars in the first half, they outscored their opponents 12-7 in the second half.
“We made some changes at halftime and I thought the kids did a lot better in the second half,” he said. “They lived in our backfield in the first half.”
The first half started with a big play from the Knights, though, as Johnson took the opening kickoff and ran it into the end zone. Farley added the extra point kick to put Northmor up 7-0 after only 13 seconds had run off the clock. Trainer did note his special teams unit had a strong game. Not only did they have Johnson’s touchdown, but also forced a fumble on a punt later in the half.
“Special teams is a big part of any game,” said the coach. “I thought our kids adjusted. We have some guys who can get downfield quick and put pressure on them.”
That would be the only score for the home team in the first half, though, as Crestview immediately responded with an 11-play drive that ended with seven points being put on the board. After forcing a three-and-out, the Cougars followed that up with a 12-play drive that also resulted in a touchdown, giving the visitors their first lead at 14-7 with just one minute remaining in the opening quarter.
Crestview added one more touchdown late in the second quarter to move in front by 14 points at the intermission. After they scored again in the third, things looked bleak for Northmor, but the Knights were able to battle back into contention over the final minutes of the contest.
With a young team featuring several players who are either new to the varsity level or playing at a new position this year, Trainer was encouraged by how the game ended.
“We are so young and inexperienced, it isn’t funny,” he said. “They did a good job and battled until the end and that’s all we can ask for. Our kids battled — it was a good game.”
For the game, Farley completed 12-of-20 passes for 158 yards and two scores, with Johnson catching for passes for 86 yards and Frank Keller added four catches for 28. Lilly led the team on the ground, rushing for 61 yards.