By ROB HAMILTON
Late in the first half, it looked like Northmor would be taking a 28-21 lead into the locker room against Cardington in a key Blue Division match-up for both teams, as they were seeking to improve to 2-1 in Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference play.
However, a defensive stand deep in their own territory followed by a huge pass play gave the Pirates that 28-21 lead and they never looked back in pulling away for a 55-21 win on their Homecoming night.
“The attitude of this team is ‘never give up’,” said Cardington coach Jerry Williams. They have big-play players, but if we have real estate to defend, we’ll defend it.”
The Pirates led 21-13 with only 2:56 to play after getting a 50-yard scoring pass from Luke McCarrell to Devin Pearl, but the Knights immediately struck back with a long touchdown off a Jake Farley kick return. Demetrius Johnson ran for the two-point conversion to tie the score.
Northmor immediately got the ball back when the Pirates fumbled the ensuing kickoff, taking the ball on Cardington’s 25. A 14-yard run by Farley moved them down to the 11, but a pair of sacks set up a fourth-and-29 situation from the 30. Farley scrambled on fourth down and nearly made up that yardage, but was stopped on the two, one yard shy of the first down marker.
On Cardington’s first play from scrimmage, with 57 seconds remaining in the half, McCarrell found Pearl over the middle and the junior back evaded defenders and sprinted all the way to the end zone for a 99-yard score to put his team back on top. Brandon Steckel’s extra point made it a seven-point game at the intermission.
Northmor coach B.J. Trainer downplayed the role that turn of events played in the outcome, noting his team had troubles all night preventing big plays by the Pirates.
“It wasn’t that,” he said. “It was all the big plays, plain and simple.”
Those big plays came a bit too regularly for Trainer’s liking in the second half, as Cardington turned a close game into a 34-point win. Taking the ball to open the third quarter, Cardington went 69 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 35-yard pass from McCarrell to Daniel Kill. For the game, the Pirate signal-called threw for 412 yards on only 14 completions. Pearl was his top target, getting five receptions for 297 yards and a quartet of scores.
“Their gameplan seemed to be to make us throw and we want to take advantage of what the defense gives us,” said Williams. “Devin’s an excellent receiver and Luke made good choices tonight.”
Northmor would quickly fumble on their next possession, setting up a 47-yard scoring run by Scott Osborne to make the score 41-21. The Knights would then threaten, as Farley scrambled 73 yards to put the ball on the Pirate two; however, Cardington’s defense would step up and get the ball back on downs.
“I tell these guys at halftime that the most important six minutes of the game are the first six minutes after you go back out there,” Williams said in explaining his team’s third-quarter explosion. “It worked for them — they’re buying in to it.”
From their 12-yard line, it would only take five plays for the Pirates to score again, thanks to a 56-yard pass to Pearl that netted an additional five on a face mask. After two carries by Osborne netted nine yards, McCarrell would score on an eight-yard scramble to give Cardington a 27-point lead after three quarters.
They would add one more score in the fourth on a four-yard carry by Osborne to provide the final margin of victory.
“We just didn’t get any consistency in the second half,” said Trainer. “We kind of ran out of gas.”
In the first half, both teams put up the sort of big plays that promised a high-scoring contest. On Northmor’s first drive, Farley returned the kickoff to the Pirate 45 and then completed a pass to Johnson that the speedy sophomore turned into a 44-yard touchdown. Farley’s extra point kick gave the visitors the early 7-0 lead.
Cardington would drive down the field in just six plays in response. McCarrell hit Clayton Clark for a 25-yard catch and then connected with Pearl for a 30-yard touchdown that tied things at seven.
Neither team would score again until midway through the second quarter, when McCarrell hit Pearl again, this time for a 63-yard touchdown play to make it 14-7. Farley immediately responded though, going deep to Gunnar Lilly on a play resulting in a 78-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked, though, keeping the Pirates ahead by one.
They would expand that lead to eight on McCarrell’s third scoring pass to Pearl and, after the Knights tied the game, would finish the first half on a big play, which carried over into the rest of the game.
“Any loss is disappointing,” said Trainer. “A loss is a loss and none are fun. The kids battled, but just didn’t close the gap.”
Williams was happy because his team avenged a loss from last year and were able to ensure this season wouldn’t be a mirror image of the 2014 campaign when Cardington started 3-1 before losing three straight on the way to finishing 4-6.
“We were exactly in the same spot,” said the coach. “Last week (against Centerburg) was a tough loss. I wanted to see how they’d rebound and we’re not in the same spot now.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS