Looking for their first ever playoff win Friday night, the Northmor Golden Knights weren’t going to let inclement weather stall them against Chillicothe Southeastern.
Competing in rainy, muddy conditions, Northmor jumped out to a fast start in their Division VI regional quarterfinal contest and were able to hold on for a 28-16 win that boosted their record to 10-1 and advanced them to the first Week 12 game in school history.
“It feels fantastic,” said head coach Scott Armrose. “I’m proud of these guys — the coaching staff and these players. We had struggled in the second half against Centerburg in slop like this, but we did a good job of blocking up front.”
Benefiting from that blocking was junior back Conor Becker, who tallied 139 yards on the ground. He also had four receptions for 42 yards to account for 181 of the team’s 227 yards in the game.
“Earlier this week, we had a rainy day and practiced outside to get used to it,” he said. “We definitely were prepared pretty well.”
It took a little while for the Northmor offense to get on the scoreboard, as their first drive ended with a punt after advancing into Panther territory. However, after the team forced a three-and-out, they got the ball at midfield. After a one-yard gain, Becker took the ball 18 yards and got another five tacked onto it due to a Panther facemask. An 11-yard pass from Hunter Mariotti to Blake Miller moved the ball to the Southeastern 15-yard line.
From there, two runs by Becker got the ball into the end zone. While the two-point conversion attempt failed, the Knights still led 6-0 midway through the opening period.
The team then got another three-and-out and recovered the ensuing punt on the Panther 46. It would only take four plays — all runs by Becker — to get the ball back into the end zone, with the touchdown coming on a 28-yard sprint.
After the game, Armrose noted that his team’s schedule had them well-prepared for Southeastern’s Double Wing offense.
“It helped that we scrimmaged Plymouth, who runs the Double Wing, and played Elgin and Lucas,” he said. “So we saw this offense as much as anything this year.”
Despite that, the Panthers controlled the flow of the game in the second quarter. Taking the ball on their own 30 with under two minutes remaining in the first quarter, the team held the ball until the 7:56 mark of the second period on an 11-play drive that ended with a punt.
That punt pinned Northmor on their own four, though, and the Golden Knights were forced to quickly punt the ball back to their opponents. Getting the ball at midfield, Southeastern methodically drove the ball down the field. While it took 13 plays and nearly six minutes to go those 50 yards, the Panthers were able to find their way into the end zone on a halfback pass from Izak Diehl to Zack Proehl. Quarterback Lane Ruby hit Dustin Elliott for a two-point conversion to make it 12-8 going into the half.
Armrose said that the worst thing about that touchdown drive was how his offense had been playing well, but couldn’t get on the field in the second quarter.
“We kind of felt we had our offense rolling, but what a drive by them,” he said.
Northmor got their revenge in the third quarter. After forcing a punt, they got the ball on their 35 with 8:56 remaining. This time, they would play keep-away with the ball, holding it for eight minutes on a time-consuming touchdown drive.
Becker did much of the work, touching the ball on nine of the drive’s 15 plays before the touchdown was scored on a 14-yard pass from Mariotti to Miller on a fourth-and-nine play. Becker then added the two-point conversion to give the Golden Knights a 20-8 lead with less than a minute remaining in the third.
Northmor looked to be in a good position after forcing a three-and-out, but the team fumbled the ball back to their opponents, giving them the ball in Golden Knight territory at the 39. A personal foul moved the ball to the 22 after a pair of short gains and the Panthers would eventually score on a 14-yard run by Ruby, who would then pass to Noah Dresbach for two points, making it 20-16 with 6:14 left in regulation.
Becker would come up with two big plays down the stretch to clinch victory for Northmor. Southeastern attempted an onside kick that came to the junior, who promptly snared it and sprinted towards the sideline, breaking free all the way to the Panther 27 and then getting hit late for a personal foul that moved the ball all the way to the 15.
“First of all, coach doesn’t really want us to take onside kicks, but it got to me so quick and I had a hole,” said Becker.
Then, after a holding penalty on what appeared to be a touchdown pass from Mariotti to Miller moved the ball back to the 27-yard line for a third-and-24, Becker caught a pass and ran through the Southeastern defense for six points. He would add a two-point run to make it 28-16.
“That’s exactly what you expect out of Conor,” said Armrose. “No (field) condition is going to stop Conor. He is a ball magnet. The ball comes to him and he makes plays.”
While Southeastern got the ball back twice, they would not be able to get back onto the scoreboard, allowing the Golden Knights to earn their first taste of playoff victory and a rematch with Beverly Fort Frye (10-0), the team which eliminated Northmor from last year’s postseason via a 6-0 decision.
“We’re having so much fun, that to extend it another week is special,” said Armrose. “Fort Frye is so good and so well-coached. What a great program — we’re trying to build what they have there.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS