One year after tying Danville for the KMAC football title, Highland was able to claim sole possession of the crown, thanks to defeating previously-undefeated Northmor at home by a 38-20 margin on a cold and rainy Friday night.
“It wasn’t pretty at times, but the kids kept fighting and were able to pull it out,” said a happy Scot coach Chad Carpenter after the game. “It’s a good feeling. One of our goals reached and we get to keep playing.”
While Northmor had clinched a Division VI playoff berth previously, the Scots needed the win to punch their ticket to the postseason. They will travel to Lorain Clearview on Saturday, while the Knights host Chillicothe Southeastern Friday night. Northmor coach Scott Armrose noted that knowing his team will be in the playoffs helped alleviate some of the sting from the loss.
“What an awful way it’d be to end the season,” he said. “But it looks like if it ends up the way ScoreStream says, we’ll be hosting.”
In the early going, the game looked like it would be much like Highland’s previous four contests, in which they averaged 41.25 points in the first half in claiming decisive victories. Taking the ball to open the first quarter, the team executed a 13-play drive that took them 65 yards down the field and into the end zone on a two-yard run by Tate Tobin. Tobin added a two-point conversion to make it 8-0 with 7:15 to play in the opening period.
After giving up a first down to the Knights on their opening possession, the Scot defense held firm and forced a quick punt. Taking the ball on their 32-yard line, the team only needed six plays to score this time, as a 31-yard run by Brody Matthews ended in the end zone. Tobin added another two-point conversion and it was 16-0.
Highland then forced a three-and-out, as Northmor was struggling to maintain possession of the ball on offense while the Scots were putting together time-consuming drives — something that Armrose noted was problematic.
“It gets frustrating, especially if you’re the offensive coordinator and want to get out there and get rolling,” said Armrose of Highland’s long drives. “How many times did they go down the field and grind it out and we’d go three and out and they’d start again?”
This time, the Scots put together a 16-play drive. However, this one had a happier ending for the Northmor faithful as a holding call on Highland erased a Tobin touchdown and the team would then turn the ball over on downs.
Northmor would get their first big play on their ensuing drive, as Conor Becker took the first handoff 68 yards to the Scot 18. While they would turn the ball over downs, their defense forced a three-and-out and they would then strike, as Hunter Mariotti connected with Blake Miller for a 54-yard scoring pass. Becker’s two-point conversion cut Highland’s lead in half, which is how it remained going into the half.
Less than 30 seconds into the third quarter, that lead was down to two points, as Becker had carries of 22 and 32 yards, with the latter going for six points to make it 16-14. “The defense gave up a couple big plays, but they have big play capability,” said Carpenter. “They’re a good football team. They’re going to make some noise (in the playoffs).”
The Scots rode Jack Weaver down the field on their next drive, as the junior had carries of 16, 20 and 12 yards to move the ball to the Knight 13. However, a fumble would give the ball back to Northmor.
Northmor couldn’t take advantage of that momentum, though, and had to punt the ball away. This time, Highland made them pay, eating more that five minute off the clock on a 12-play drive culminating with a short scoring scramble by quarterback Ian Taylor to make it 22-14.
Northmor would then suffer a turnover of their own, fumbling the ball away at midfield. The Scots would capitalize, getting an 11-yard touchdown run by Brock Veley to cap a seven-play drive. Tobin’s two-point conversion run bumped the Highland lead to a 30-14 margin with 10:30 to go. Two minutes later, it was 30-20, though, as Mariotti hit Taylor again, this time for an 81-yard touchdown run.
“We don’t have to be a big play team, but we are athletic,” said Armrose. “We got big plays to our tight end and Conor was Conor.”
Leading by 10 with 8:27 left in regulation, Highland was able to ice the game with one final impressive drive. The team covered 71 yards in nine plays, as Tobin covered the final nine and also added a two-point run to provide his team’s final points.
“They’re a good football team,” said Armrose. “We were outmatched at the point of attack. We weren’t able to do what we do consistently.”
After winning the league title and clinching a playoff berth on the same night, Carpenter had no complaints with his team’s effort.
“We’re ecstatic right now,” he said. “To be a conference champ like we are now is a special thing. This was a huge game for us. It is special. We told the kids that every day.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS