PATASKALA — On a cold Friday night at Pataskala Watkins Memorial Ascena Field, the Division VI, Region-23 football playoffs were in full effect as the No. 3 seeded Northmor Golden Knights met up with the No. 2 seeded Fort Frye Cadets in a week 12 gridiron clash.
In a rematch of last season’s week 11 matchup, Northmor was looking to avenge a 6-0 loss to Fort Frye while the Cadets were looking to remain undefeated and advance to the regional finals and the Division VI Elite Eight.
The Cadets would come away with the victory thus ending the Golden Knight’s season by emerging victorious; 41-23. Fort Frye improves to 11-0 on the season and will now face the No. 4 seeded Shadyside Tigers (10-2). Shadyside defeated the No. 1 seeded Bainbridge Paint Valley Bearcats in an unexpected lopsided affair; 40-6 to advance to the regional finals on Friday, November 16 at Byesville Meadowbrook Eugene Capers Field.
The season was historic in many ways as it was their second consecutive playoff appearance, included the most wins in school history in a season, was the first time Northmor hosted a playoff game and it included the first playoff win in school history.
Things began with a positive spin for the Golden Knights as they would find the scoreboard first in the opening quarter. Running back Conor Becker muscled his way into the endzone for a one-yard touchdown run. With the Knights opting for the two-point conversion, quarterback Hunter Mariotti found wide receiver Chris Bood to tack on the attempt and with less than four minutes gone in the opening frame, Northmor was up by a tally of 8-0.
Unfortunately for the black and gold, the lead would not last long as Fort Frye got on the board with 4:09 remaining in the first thanks to a one yard touchdown of their own by quarterback Tate Engle. The Cadets would be unable to convert the two-point attempt and trailed Northmor by a score of 8-6 heading into the second quarter of action.
The Cadets appeared to make the necessary adjustments on both sides of the ball in the second, holding Northmor scoreless while tacking on a touchdown of their own on a two-yard scamper by Tyler Fisher with 3:02 remaining in the half. Fisher would also run the ball into the endzone for the two-point conversion to send Fort Frye into the locker room at the half up; 14-8.
It was much the same to begin the second half as the Golden Knights’ usually high octane offense was held at bay while the Cadets scored on another Engle one-yard keeper. After the missed two-point conversion attempt, Fort Frye entered the final 12 minutes of regulation on top of the Knights; 20-8.
Offense for both teams picked up in the fourth, starting with a Zane Greenleaf 13-yard run into the endzone for the Cadets with just a little over a minute off of the clock. The two-point attempt by Fisher was stopped short but with 10:53 remaining, the Cadets found themselves up with a commanding, 26-8 lead. Less than two minutes later, Engle found Brian Adkins for a 58-yard aerial strike with Engle tacking on the two-point attempt and it was 34-8, Cadets.
After being held scoreless for the entire second and third quarters, the Northmor offense was finally able to get something going when Mariotti found Bood in the endzone on an eight-yard pass for the score. Becker would add the two points and with only 7:34 left in regulation, the Golden Knights trailed; 34-16.
Fort Frye would strike again with their running game as Fisher dashed in from nine yards out while David Kitts added the extra-point attempt to stretch the Cadets’ lead to 41-16. With just 4:38 possibly remaining in their season, the Northmor offense desperately searched for an answer. Mariotti would help find that answer as he connected with Cole Dille for a 19-yard touchdown pass with Nate Ruhl knocking home the PAT but with just 2:47 left, Northmor would see their season end with a 41-23 defeat.
The No. 2 seeded Cadets controlled the ball for most of the contest, racking up a time of possession of 32:36 to the Knights’ 14:41. Fort Frye appeared to have Northmor well scouted as their defense held the Golden Knights to just 223 yards of total offense (154 passing, 69 rushing) while their offense managed 466 yards (135 passing, 331 rushing). In total, the Cadets picked up 27 first downs on the evening to just 10 from Northmor.
Penalties and turnovers didn’t appear to be a huge factor in deciding the winner as Northmor drew five flags resulting in 45 yards while Fort Frye was flagged just twice for 20 yards. The Knights committed two fumbles on the evening but just one of them resulted in a change of possession while the Cadets finished with two turnovers; a fumble lost and an interception thrown by Engle.
Mariotti wrapped his game under center at 12/19 completions leading to 154 yards and two touchdown passes (Bood, Dille). On the ground, Mariotti kept the ball five times but managed just five yards. Becker was held mostly at bay on the night, carrying the ball 16 times for just 64 yards and a TD, well under his average. Becker would also catch three Mariotti passes resulting in 54 yards.
Gavon Ramos caught four passes for 54 yards and had the lone interception for the Knights’ “D”. Dille had two total catches for 21 yards, including the 19-yard touchdown. Blake Miller snagged a pair of receptions against Fort Frye, equating to 17 yards and Bood rounded out the offense for Northmor with the one touchdown catch for eight yards.
On the other sideline, it was a well-round contest for numerous players representing Fort Frye.
Engle finished the game completing 7/13 passes for 135 yards and the touchdown to pair with the interception On the ground, the QB carried the ball seven times for 14 yards and two scores. Fisher added 107 yards on the ground on 19 carries, good for the two touchdowns while also catching two passes for 52 yards.
Evan Schob racked up 106 yards on 22 carries and caught one pass for six yards. Adkins ran the ball eight times for 65 yards while also snagging the 58-yard touchdown catch from Engle. Greenleaf had five rushes for 22 yards and the score while also catching one pass for six yards. Isiah Jones carried the ball just one time but gained 15 yards and Brady Schilling rounded out the offensive onslaught for the Cadets with two catches for 13 yards.
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