Northmor overcame a slow start to improve to 2-0 on the season on Friday night, topping visiting South Central by a 37-20 margin after trailing 13-8 late in the second quarter.
“Two weeks in and we’ve been able to battle in close games and win in the end,” said head coach Scott Armrose.
Winning in the end has been the key for the Golden Knights. Last year, the team struggled to make plays down the stretch in finishing with a 2-8 record. However, the coach believes that the experience his players, many of whom were first-year starters last year, gained has been to their benefit.
“Absolutely, the experience we gained last season,” he said. “And our commitment to the weight room and conditioning in the offseason.”
The team struggled offensively in the early going after a storm delay pushed the opening kick back to 7:30 p.m., punting on each of its first three drives and finding itself in a 7-0 deficit after the first quarter when Trojan quarterback Brandon Mitchell hooked up with Hagen Adams for a 50-yard scoring play.
Northmor would start to find its way offensively after that SC score, though. After a long touchdown run by Garrett Corwin was called back by a penalty, the team got two big passes by Marcus Cortez — 30 yards to Andrew Armrose and 31 yards for six points to Trenton Ramos — to get on the board. After a Trojan penalty on the extra point attempt, the Golden Knights went for two and Max Lower ran it in to give Northmor their first lead of the game at 8-7.
South Central responded with a quick scoring drive, but Northmor would then control the ball for nearly the final seven minutes of the half. Their 15-play drive consisted of several runs by both Lower and Niko Christo and ended with a 16-yard pass from Cortez to Ramos that gave the home team the lead going into the half. Lower added his second two-point conversion of the evening to make it 16-13.
Armrose felt his team’s running game was essential to its win, as Lower (111 yards), Corwin (86), Christo (81) all had big games at running back, while Cortez also scrambled for 45.
“It’s such a luxury to have three good backs,” said the coach. “We can keep one fresh and we can use Max’s blocking abilities. He blocked well, tonight.”
After closing the first half with a touchdown, Northmor opened the second half the same way, going 80 yards in 11 plays with all of those yards coming via the ground. Corwin finished the drive with a 30-yard sprint for a touchdown and Caleb Schnuerer added the extra point to give his team a 10-point lead at 23-13.
South Central immediately responded with a touchdown drive to get back within a 23-20 margin, but Northmor’s defense played strongly the rest of the way.
After a promising drive was ended by penalties late in the third, they were able to force South Central to punt. Northmor then got a quick 41-yard run by Lower and continued to run the ball down the field until Lower dove it in from the one-yard line to make the score 30-20 with nine minutes left in regulation.
From there, South Central’s final three drives ended in interceptions, including one that was returned 58 yards by Gavin Miller for the game-clinching touchdown.
“I’m very pleased,” said Armrose. “We made some adjustments in the secondary at halftime, but what really helped us out was our defensive line getting pressure.”
Not only did the team run for over 300 yards, but Cortez also completed nine passes for 119 yards, with Ramos catching five for 57 and Armrose adding three for 54. While this year’s Golden Knight team has many of the same starters as last year’s squad, the coach feels the two squads can’t be compared.
“The only comparison we made to last year was that we went into close games at halftime and then got outscored in the third and fourth,” he said. “The biggest difference is our conditioning. We feel we’re in better shape than our opponents.”
Next up for Northmor will be 1-1 Bucyrus, who won their first game before falling on Friday.
“I honestly have no idea what to expect,” said Armrose. “They got a big win in week one, so we’re ready for another challenge on the road.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS