NORTH BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Northmor defended The Castle Saturday night.
Using a strong running attack and a stout defense, the Golden Knights defeated KMAC rival Fredericktown 28-14 in a Division VI first round playoff game.
“In the second half, I think we finally put things together and set the tone in the first drive. We challenged our offensive line at halftime to do that and set the tone for the second half,” Knights head coach Scott Armrose said.
It was a rematch of the Sept. 24 game that Northmor won 40-20.
Fredericktown (5-6) took the early lead on a touchdown pass from Ben Mast to Xavier Mullins covering 23 yards. The kick failed but the visitors were ahead 6-0 at the 7:13 mark.
But Northmor turned to its reliable running attack and Max Lower scored three straight touchdowns covering 6, 2 and 1 yards. Caleb Schnuerer hit on all 4 extra point kicks.
The second score put Northmor (9-2) on top at halftime 14-6.
The bruising junior ran 31 times for 170 yards, giving him 1,461 rushing stripes on the season.
“This isn’t the same Fredericktown team that we played a month ago. They’re a much improved team. Coach (Will)) Hartley does a great job.
“He coaches those guys up and they had a good game plan,” Armose said. “We executed in the second half especially.”
The return of Mast gave the Freddies an added dimension they didn’t have in the first meeting.
“It allows them to move (Kaid) Carpenter out to receiver. Our defensive backs aren’t very tall, and he’s 6-foot-5 and gives us a threat out there.
“But it’s not just that. Their offensive line, defensive line. He’s done a great job with those boys all season. They’re a young football team and are going to be a force next season,” he said.
Carpenter had just 1 catch for 10 yards. Mast hit on 6-of-15 pass attempts for 60 yards. Teegan Ruhl had 12 carries for 56 yards.
Fredericktown was held to 194 total offensive yards and 13 first downs by the stingy Northmor defense. Charles Naylor, Lower, Gavin Whited, Garrett Corwin, Trenton Ramos and CJ Stoney led the charge.
Marcus Cortez hit on 2-of-7 pass attempts for 80 yards. But one of those — a toss to senior tight end Andrew Armose — covered 74 yards and put the game away.
With Northmor leading 21-6 with 3 and 1/2 minutes go play in the third quarter, quarterback Marcus Cortez was faced with a 3rd down and 35 from his own 26-yard-line.
But he scrambled and connected with Armose, who made a nice catch in the middle of the field and went the distance to put the game out of reach at 28-6.
“It was a good throw and a good catch. Fredericktown put us in a position where we had to take a shot down the field. They packed the box and played Cover Zero. We knew it would be hard to run the ball up in there against an 8- or 9-man box. We knew we had to hit a couple of big ones and we did hit a big one there.”
Ruhl added 9-yard scoring pass to Trevor Jobes for the other Freddies score, coming with 7:37 left in the game.
Cortez added 75 rushing yards on 10 trips and Niko Christo 47 on 6 carries.
As a team the Golden Knights ran the ball 51 times for 303 yards, to which Armrose again credits his squad’s blocking corps for that success.
“Our four senior offensive linemen and our senior tight end have worked hard up through the system, busted their butts. Most of them didn’t get to start until this season. They’ve done nothing but work really hard … in the weight room, in the classroom learning and doing everything we’ve asked them to do. I’m awfully proud of those guys.”
Jordan Welch, Jonathon Artrip, Duston Sanders, Whited and Armose have excelled at opening holes for the backs and giving Cortez time to throw.
Up next is a trip to Madison County to face top seed West Jefferson, who defeated Lucasville Valley 43-14 to advance and host the Knights.
“They’re really athletic with a lot of speed. They’ve scored a lot of points this season and haven’t given up very many,” Armrose said. “They’re a tough, good football team.”