A strong defensive performance combined with some timely offensive strikes helped Northmor reach uncharted grounds in the OHSAA football playoffs.
While their 31-6 win over Glouster Trimble on Friday allowed the Golden Knights to advance to their second regional semifinals, due to the recent expansion of the playoffs, it will be the program’s first trip to Week 13, where they will take on undefeated Sugarcreek Garaway at Heath High School.
“What I’m so proud of — every team is beat up right now, but we’ve got guys hurting and our guys hurting are just sucking it up and playing through it and not just playing, but playing real good physical football right now. It says a lot about coach (Nate) Hall and his offseason program. He got these guys in shape and got them stronger so their bodies can withstand 12, 13 weeks of the season. We think this is the best team that Northmor football has ever had and we’re starting to show that right now.”
Much like in their previous playoff contest against Coal Grove, Northmor got out to a fast start Friday. Taking the ball first, they overcame an early third-and-19 situation deep in their own territory with a 19-yard pass to from A.J. Bower to Cameron Goldbach. They would then get a 54-yard run by Carson Campbell to move the ball inside the Trimble 10 and set up a short dive by Campbell to get on the scoreboard first.
Also like Coal Grove, Trimble’s offense was dominated by running plays, which they used to good effect on their first drive, which laded 17 plays and ate nearly 10 minutes off the clock. However, while Coal Grove was able to tally 22 first half points due to their rushing attack, Trimble would come up empty, turning the ball over on downs at the Golden Knight 12 and never having that success moving the ball the rest of the game.
“They did a good job in the first half shortening the game,” said Armrose. “We had one possession in the first quarter, but we did a great job of defensively getting those stops.”
Being able to get that stop was beneficial to the team mentally, as the last thing Northmor wanted was a repeat of that first half against Coal Grove.
“It started out, I thought it was going to be a repeat of last week,” said junior Bo Landin. “But our defense picked it up and we just shut them down from there.”
Trimble would quickly get on the board after being stopped, as Owen Sikorski picked off a Bower pass and returned it for six points. Northmor would snuff out their attempt at a two-point conversion, though, to maintain a 7-6 lead with eight minutes to play in the first half.
The teams would trade punts on their next possessions, but Northmor would put a pair of scores on the board in the final three minutes of the half to get some much needed breathing room to take Trimble out of their run-heavy game plan.
Taking possession at their own 43, Bower hit Wenger for 21 yards on a pass the Golden Knight receiver ripped away from a defender to make the reception. The quarterback then connected with Hunter Fulk for a 22-yard score to make it a 14-6 game.
Northmor then forced a three-and-out and recovered the Trimble punt on the Tomcat 46. Back-to-back passes from Bower to Landin — including a 29-yard touchdown pass that saw him drag a defender into the end zone — sent the Golden Knights into the locker room with a 15-point lead.
“We love our offense in the two-minute drill,” said Armrose. “We do a great job of practicing that. Coach Hall, our passing game coordinator, does a great job. We’re comfortable and in our element in that hurry-up two-minute offense and we’re able to execute at a high level when doing that.”
Bower also was happy with how the half ended.
“We scored in the last two minutes and that was a pretty big deal,” he said. “The defense really picked me up right there. They got a quick stop and allowed us to get the ball back.”
Northmor would then put the game away with a strong second half performance. After forcing a Trimble punt, they drove 74 yards in five plays, with Campbell having runs of 12 and 43 yards and Bower hitting Wenger with a 19-yard touchdown pass to give him three touchdowns to three different receivers.
“The great work ethic of the group we have is amazing,” said Wenger. “Any guys can make plays any night and we don’t care who makes the plays. It’s just a good feeling to have all those guys around you.”
Caleb Schnuerer, who also hit all four of his extra point attempts, added a 28-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to provide Northmor’s final points.
Bower hit on 12-of-19 passes for 154 yards, with Landin having four catches for 53 yards and Wenger adding two for 40. Campbell ran for 125.
Armrose was very happy that his team was able to defend their home turf for two straight postseason weeks noting that the fan support played a big role in the Golden Knights advancing to Week 13.
“It feels great,” he said. “We played really well at home this year. We’ve got a great fan base and great crowd behind us. We were fortunate to play seven games at home this year and we won them all and won them all big. It’s a great atmosphere and our crowd did a great job tonight. It was exciting.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS