The Northmor football team fought through a slow start to cruise to its second straight 9-1 and third straight playoff appearance on Friday, rallying from an early deficit to claim a 49-7 win against visiting Highland.
“That’s the sign of an experienced team,” said Golden Knight head coach Scott Armrose of his team’s ability to endure those early struggles. “These guys have been there before. These seniors have been in this situation before and know if they play hard, good things will happen.”
Northmor went three-and-out on their first two drives, setting the stage for Highland to get out to a good start. While their first drive also was a three-and-out, they were able to put points on the board on their second.
Utilizing the legs of quarterback Kadin Johnson and running back Jack Weaver, the Scots moved from their 40 to the Northmor 15 before Johnson was able to connect with Landon Remmert for a 15-yard touchdown. Riley Kemmer’s extra point staked the team to a 7-0 lead eight minutes into the contest.
“That was our game plan going in,” said Highland coach Matt Jones. “To try to keep the ball rolling and pass it a bit.”
It looked like the Scots’ second drive would have the same end result. Taking the ball on their 38, Johnson, Weaver and Remmert were able to move the ball to the Northmor 28, but a pair of good defensive plays took the ball back 10 yards and forced a punt.
That kick was partially deflected, giving Northmor the ball on their own 32. After getting their first first down of the night, it looked like this drive would wind up stalling, as well; however, on third-and-nine, Hunter Mariotti found Trenton Ramos for 21 yards. On the next play, the senior quarterback hit Logan Randolph for 29, moving the ball to the six and setting up a short run by Wyatt Reeder for six.
The point-after conversion failed, though, keeping Highland ahead with 5:07 to go in the half. However, they wouldn’t be able to take a lead into the half. Randolph picked off a Johnson pass to give Northmor the ball on their own 43 and the Golden Knights turned that into a 32-yard touchdown pass from Mariotti to Blake Miller. Max Lower ran in a two-point conversion and Northmor was able to take a 14-7 lead into the half.
Things snowballed in the second half. After both teams punted on their first possession, Northmor made their second count. After blocking a Scot punt, they had the ball on their opponents’ five and immediately got into the end zone on a run by Lower. Gavin Ramos then picked off a pass and the Golden Knights took advantage of another short field, getting a 15-yard pass from Mariotti to Miller to go in front 28-7.
Highland would be forced to punt again and Northmor struck quickly, getting a 67-yard pass from Mariotti to Ramos to lead 35-7 with 12 minutes remaining.
“It was a complete game,” said Armrose. “The offense stalled early on, but the defense battled and kept us in it and special teams made plays.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Reeder got an interception and returned it 51 yards for a score. That was followed by the team forcing a three-and-out, blocking their third punt of the night and having that kick run back 26 yards for a score by Lower to turn a seven-point halftime lead into a 42-point win.
“I’m extremely happy with our overall game,” said Jones. “Just in the second half, we had a couple turnovers and blocked punts and you just can’t have mistakes like that. In the second half, we just made too many mistakes. Against a club like that, you can’t do that.”
Jones was happy with his team’s senior leadership this year. After losing a lot to graduation and starting out 0-4, the team was able to rally and win four of their final six games.
“There were a lot of positives in what they did this season,” he said. “We’re definitely moving in the right direction into next season.”
Weaver led Highland with 96 yards on the ground, while Johnson threw for 40 and ran for 35. Remmert caught four passes for 34 yards. For Northmor, Mariotti completed nine passes for 185 yards, with Gavin Ramos catching three for 74 and Miller adding two for 47. Reeder contributed 56 rushing yards.
Heading into his three playoff appearance in as many years as Northmor’s head coach, Armrose was quick to give praise to his seniors and his coaching staff.
“It’s an exciting thing for the seniors,” he said. “They work hard and deserve it. I’m proud of my coaching staff. They work hard and put in the hours.”
Armrose couldn’t praise that senior class enough after closing out the regular season with a win.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have great senior leadership,” he said. “These guys don’t just set an example on the field. We get success and the younger guys see it and want to be part of it and it’s contagious.”