A great ground game Friday at Northmor has the Mount Gilead football team going places they haven’t been before.
Quarterback Matthew Bland ran for 198 yards and running back Garrett George added 153 Friday night to lead the Indians to a 36-9 win over the Golden Knights. That win give MG (5-3, 3-2 in league play) their first five-win season since 2008. Even better, according to Joe Eitel’s playoff projections, the Indians clinched the program’s first-ever playoff berth with the win.
“I’m not sure where to start,” said head coach Mike Reid after the win. “It’s a long journey. Mount Gilead hasn’t won five games since 2008 and that’s huge for these fellows. They’re in uncharted territory and sometimes, they’re not really sure how that feels or what they’re supposed to do. It’s just exciting. What an incredible atmosphere and they created that atmosphere for themselves.”
Despite the 27-point margin of victory, the game was evenly matched in the early going. MG’s first drive was ended by an interception and Northmor was able to ride the legs of running back Paul Cramer to the Indian eight, leading to a 25-yard field goal by Caleb Schnuerer.
While the Indians were able to respond with a drive resulting in a short touchdown run by Bland and also a two-point conversion run by the senior signal-caller, Northmor had another answer. Quarterback A.J. Bowers connected with Bo Landin on a couple athletic catches — a 37-yard reception that moved the ball into the red zone and an 18-yard scoring catch that put the home team up 9-8 with under a minute in the opening period.
The second quarter was all MG, though. After the first ended with runs of 12 and 23 yards by George, the Indians kept running the ball until George scored from two yards out and added a two-point run to make it 16-9.
Northmor would then throw an interception on their next drive and Mount Gilead would eat the final 6:50 of the half with a 14-play, 60 yard drive that ended with Bland eluding the Northmor defense in the backfield and scrambling for a touchdown. After he added the two-point run, MG entered the locker room with a 24-9 lead.
Golden Knight coach Scott Armrose said that the duo of Bland and George was a tough one to contain and mistakes didn’t make things any easier.
“It’s the same thing they’ve done all season,” he said. “Bland and George are good backs. I don’t think we’ve seen a one-two punch like that from anyone we’ve seen all season. They’re good, they’re good up front, they’re well-coached and they outplayed us tonight. We beat ourselves up with penalties and turnovers. We didn’t tackle well and we turned the ball over. We were sloppy and that’s on me.”
The MG defense forced a punt to open the second half and then Bland made it 30-9 with a huge play. After fumbling the snap, he recovered and got past the Northmor defense for a 76-yard touchdown.
“That might have been the back-breaker,” said Reid. “I’d like to say I teach that, but that’s just Matthew being an athlete. Garrett’s a great blocker for him when he’s not carrying the ball and Matthew made some great reads tonight.”
Armrose added that Bland did a good job of hurting his team by turning broken plays into big ones.
“Some of their best plays were fumbled snaps where he scrambled out of danger and that’s the way he’s been all year,” said the coach. “He’s a good player. He has good speed and outran us. We’d have him wrapped up and he got out of our hands and that’s how it went tonight.”
Northmor wouldn’t be able to get things going on offense the rest of the way, having two turnovers, a punt and giving it up on downs in their final four possessions. MG added a touchdown on a short run by George early in the fourth quarter to punctuate their win.
With two weeks left in the season, both schools have a lot to play for. Northmor (5-3, 2-3), which got 89 passing yards from Bower, 65 on the ground by Cramer and 55 on two catches by Landin, still has control of their destiny as far as making the postseason goes.
“We’re going to put this one behind us and get back to work,” said Armrose. “We know Centerburg and Loudonville are good football teams and we still have a lot to play for. We’re looking at week 11 and giving ourselves better position for week 11.”
As for the Indians, Reid is hoping this win helps catapult the team to a strong finish to the regular season and a good stay in the playoffs.
“It’s a building block for future years and hopefully a building block as we get into a big game next week at Danville,” said the coach. “Hopefully, this puts us in a good position for the postseason and helps us to keep building excitement.”