A dominating defensive performance by Sugarcreek Garaway put an end to Northmor’s very successful football season on Friday at Heath High School.
Competing in a Division VI regional semifinal, the Golden Knights (10-3) committed six turnovers in the first half and would not be able to recover in suffering a 42-7 loss that put an end to their postseason run.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” said head coach Scott Armrose of his team’s accomplishments this fall. “I know they’re hurting right now — our seniors are hurting. They didn’t want it to end like this. You make a run in the playoffs and you occasionally run into a buzzsaw and that happened again tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys and the hard work they put in. You know, 10 wins and making it to a regional semi is fantastic. It says a lot for our senior leadership. I’m proud of everything they accomplished this season.”
Garaway’s defense set the tone immediately. After Hunter Fulk returned the opening kickoff to the Northmor 37, it took a mere three plays for the Pirates to force their first turnover, as Jenson Garber picked off an A.J. Bower pass to set his team up on their 46 barely a minute into the game.
From there, Garaway overcame a third-and-16 with a 20-yard pass play as they drove down the field to score on the eighth play of their drive. Wyatt Wallick put points on the board with a one-yard run and Anderson Colon added the first of six extra point kicks.
The Pirates would immediately add to their advantage, as Jackson Reifenschneider burst through the offensive line to snag a Bower pass out of the air and run it back 35 yards to make it 14-0.
Armrose noted that his team was unable to do the things they needed to do in order to topple the undefeated Pirates.
“The things we needed to do tonight to win — protect our quarterback and give him a chance to throw and I don’t think we did that very well tonight,” he said. “We had to not turn the ball over and obviously we didn’t do a good job of that tonight. We had to prevent big plays and obviously we didn’t do a good job of that tonight. We go back and think about the things we talked about before the game that we needed to do, we didn’t take care of those things tonight. And a lot of that says a lot for Garaway and the guys they have there. They’re a really good football team.”
Faraway would add another touchdown in the first quarter after being set up on the Northmor 22 after recording another interception. Quarterback Brady Geibel would score on a two-yard run after running back Dillon Soehnien sprinted for 20 yards.
Trailing 21-0, Northmor would put together their first extended drive. Bower hit Bo Landin five times on the drive for a total of 64 yards as the Golden Knights moved from their nine to deep into Garaway territory. However, as they went inside the Pirate 20, they would fumble the ball away.
Faraway responded with an 84-yard drive that took only six plays. Geibel hit all three of his passes for 70 yards and also scored on a one-yard dive, as his team went in front 28-0 with 8:30 to go in the half.
Another Northmor interception led to a 47-yard touchdown pass from Geibel to Jenson Gerber to put the Golden Knights in a 35-0 hole. Late in the half, Geibel struck again, hitting Soehnien for a 50-yard touchdown pass.
Northmor had a chance to get on the board in the final minute of the half. Carson Campbell opened the team’s drive with runs of 40, 20 and seven yards to put the team into the red zone, but a false start moved them five yards back and a pass from Bower was then intercepted to end the threat.
Armrose noted that turnovers were the story of the game, as Garaway did a good job of making his team pay for their mistakes.
“When you turn the ball over against a team like this, they take advantage,” he said. “That’s what they do. That’s what they’ve done all season long. They take advantage of turnovers and they’re an explosive offense. They’re not all A.J.’s fault. It’s hard to throw when you have guys in your face and we didn’t do a real good job of protecting our quarterback tonight.”
With a running clock in the second half, Garaway was able to eat nearly nine minutes of the third quarter on a 10-play drive that ended with a punt. After getting the ball on their 36, Northmor was able to punch the ball into the end zone.
Campbell had three carries for 26 yards and Bower connected with Jax Wenger twice, including a 25-yard touchdown play that provided the night’s final points.
Campbell ran for 104 yards in the contest, while Bower was good on 11-of-22 passes for 171 yards. Landin had six catches for 81 yards, while Wenger added five for 90.
After the game, Armrose noted that his senior class played a big role in the team’s 10-win season.
“It’s not a big class, but it’a a class with a lot of heart and a lot of leadership and they did an awful lot for us this season,” he said. “We need some of our younger guys to step up now and take their place. We lose 10 seniors and a lot of those guys are a big part of what we do up front, so it’s not going to be an easy thing to do, but we’ve got guys who are really committed and really dedicated and I think they enjoyed the experience of this extra three weeks to the season.”
And Armrose will have a lot coming back this season, including the majority of his skill position players on offense.
“We’ve got kids who are willing to compete,” he said. “Our junior class has been very successful all the way through. They gel really well together; they’re really good friends, they get along well and they love to work together. They work really hard. I know they’re going to put in the work and we’re going to be a tough team to beat next year.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS