While Northmor coach Scott Armrose doesn’t know where his team will be next Friday or who they will be playing, he knows the most imporant fact — for the first time in school history, the Knights will be part of the OHSAA football playoffs.
Northmor (8-2, 5-2 in league play) clinched their spot in the postseason with a 34-12 home win over Highland Friday. After falling behind early in the second quarter, the Knights took over the game with three touchdowns in the final six minutes of the half.
“It’s hard to even express in words right now,” said Armrose. “Now we hit refresh on the computer ever 30 seconds to see what happens. We can be anywhere from fourth to seventh in our region. Anything can happen.”
While both teams were able to move the ball on their first possession, neither drive led to points. However, when the Scots took the ball on their own 14 with 4:42 remaining in the opening period after the Knights turned it over on downs, they were able to grind out a long possession.
Highland held the ball for nearly nine minutes of game time, going the length of the field in 20 plays. While most of the work was done on the ground, the Scots got two passes from Reese Weissenfluh to Javi Vasquez that netted 38 yards. Brody Matthews got the final yard on a short run that gave his team a 6-0 lead with 8:09 remaining in the half.
That lead would only hold up for 2:37, though. Northmor got the ball on their own 40 after a short kickoff and Demetrius “Meechie” Johnson carred the ball three times for 30 yards to move the ball into Scot territory. After two short Knight runs, the senior quarterback hit Kyle Kegley for a 26-yard touchdown. Kegley would then added the extra point to give his team a 7-6 lead.
“It wasn’t just Meechie,” said Armrose. “Conan Becker had a huge game and Kyle Kegley had a great catch.”
Their advantage would grow after a fake punt attempt was quashed, giving the Knights the ball on their opponents’ 33. On the first play from scrimmage, Johnson called his own number and darted the distance for six more points. Northmor then forced a three-and-out and got the ball back on their 27 with 2:20 remaining in the half.
After a four-yard gain, Johnson hit Conor Becker for 28 yards to move them to Highland’s side of the field, setting up an eventual 22-yard run by Conan Becker that allowed them to take a 20-6 lead into the half.
“It just seemed we were playing constant catch-up,” said Highland coach Chad Carpenter, whose team finishes the regular season 8-2 and tied for the KMAC title with Danville at 6-1 in league play. “They did a good job forcing us to do that.”
The Scots made an effort to catch up. After neither team could get much traction early in the third quarter, Highland took the ball on their 16 and embarked on another long drive, getting down the field in 16 plays, all on the ground. Four running backs shared the duties, with Tate Tobin scoring from two yards out to make the score 20-12 in the opening minute of the final quarter.
Once again, Northmor would respond. Conor Becker fought off tacklers to take the kickoff to the Knight 43 and Johnson followed with runs of 17 and 40 yards to push the ball into the end zone for a 27-12 advantage.
“Their offense is really good and they do a good job of putting you in tough positions,” said Carpenter. “He’s (Johnson) an outstanding player.”
Following an interception by Ryland Thomas, the Knights added one more score on a 20-yard run by Conan Becker to provide the final margin of victory.
“We had our best week of practice, we’re healthy and the guys are getting better every week,” he said. “They are a big, strong physical team and they had a good plan, but I think we executed a bit better.”
Now, in his first year as the team’s head coach, Armrose had to prepare for uncharted territory with the team’s first playoff bid. After the game, he had nothing but complements for his players, who improved from a 1-9 mark in 2016 to their current eight-win status.
“It’s hard work and they’re willing to do it,” he said. “They accepted our coaching staff and put in the hard work.”
At the end of the game, Highland was in the same boat as Northmor — in the playoffs, but unsure where they’d be playing. A win over the Knights likely would have locked them into a home game, but now, it looks like they’ll be on the road in Week 11.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS