By ROB HAMILTON
Strong performances on both sides of the ball led Mount Gilead to a 44-13 win at Northmor Friday night to spoil Homecoming for the Knights.
The Indians scored on all six of their first-half possessions to take a 37-6 lead into the half and kept the clock running the entire second half due to holding a 30-point lead during that duration.
For Mount Gilead (4-4, 3-2), this was their third straight win after dropping their first two league games. Head coach Jason Ross feels his team is showing the sort of consistency he and his coaching staff want to see.
“We challenge the kids,” he said. “It starts with attitude. It’s a credit to our kids and seniors that they responded with a positive attitude. We’ve had real good practices the last couple weeks.”
Northmor (2-6, 1-4 received the opening kickoff, but after an Indian offsides and a pair of Demetrius Johnson runs netted them a first down, they were forced to punt. Taking the ball on their 35, the Indians quickly scored, getting a 56-yard touchdown run by Jonah Barnett on the fourth play of the drive. Anthony Clark added a two-point run to stake MG to an 8-0 lead at the 7:20 mark of the opening quarter.
Northmor would not get untracked offensively during the first half, suffering through three straight three-and-outs after that opening drive, as a stout Mount Gilead defense was able to drop Knight ball-carriers in the backfield for losses regularly. Meanwhile, the Indians would regularly get the ball in good field position and take advantage of that.
“They just played better than we did, plain and simple,” said Northmor coach B.J. Trainer. “It wasn’t that they were in the backfield; we just didn’t execute. We helped them a lot with our poor play.”
After the first of those three-and-outs, MG got the ball on their own 40. Barnett opened the drive with a 17-yard run and three pals later, took the ball 41 yards for another touchdown, making the score 14-0.
On Northmor’s next punt, Deondre Cook returned the ball to the Knight 30. Five running plays ended the first quarter with the Indians down to the one-yard line, setting up a touchdown dive by Clark to open the second period. Another two-point conversion by Barnett boosted the visitors’ lead to 22-0.
The next Knight punt was blocked, giving MG great field position again, this time at the Northmor 21. A 10-yard pass to Austin Vanderkooi by Cook moved it to the 11, but the drive would stall. Jacob Robinson was able to convert on a 20-yard field goal to make it a 25-point margin.
After Northmor got a first down on a defensive holding penalty by the Indians on their next drive, Mount Gilead’s defense pushed them back on three straight plays to force another punt. Cook would dart for another big return, this time getting the ball to the Northmor 17. After a run by Clark, Cook hit Vanderkooi again for a 12-yard scoring pass.
Trailing 31-0, Northmor finally got a big play to go their way, as Johnson returned MG’s kickoff 72 yards for a score to put the Knights on the board at 31-6. However, the Indians would respond with a nine-play drive ending with a Cook scoring pass to Mason Mollohan of 23 yards.
Northmor got a good drive going on their next possession, as Jake Farley connected with Frank Keller for 40 yards and hit Gunnar Lilly for 16 more. Unfortunately for the Knights, they would not be able to advance past the MG 12 and the half ended with the Indians up 37-6.
Ross noted his team paid a lot of attention to Farley and Johnson in the game, which he felt paid off for his defense.
“He’s (Farley) a good player and #24 (Johnson) is just dynamic — he showed that on that kickoff return,” said the coach. “It was a point of emphasis to keep them bottled up.”
In the second half, with the clock running constantly, the Indians scored early in the fourth quarter on a one-yard run by Clark to conclude a 12-play drive that ate a lot of clock. Northmor would close the game with a three-yard touchdown run by Farley.
While Trainer was pleased with the heart his players, who will travel to Fredericktown next week, showed down the stretch, forcing two turnovers and scoring in the second half, he noted they had opportunities to make big plays earlier in the game and weren’t able to convert then.
“We had fumbles in the first half and weren’t able to get any of them,” he said. “They (MG) made plays when they needed to.”
Mount Gilead will host Centerburg next week. Ross stated that while his team will study the Trojans to work on their gameplan, their number one concern is simply to continue improving.
“We try to keep our focus on ourselves,” he said. “We’re going to face quality opposition every time, so we’ve got to answer the challenge.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS