Going into the second half, it looked like East Knox would have the momentum against host Northmor.
After being stifled by the Golden Knight defense for much of the half, they were able to take possession of the ball on the Northmor 44 and managed a 41-yard scoring pass from Peyton Lester to Shane Knepp to turn a 7-0 deficit into a tie game.
However, Northmor would bounce back with a dominating third-quarter performance that set them on the path for a key 24-7 league victory. The Golden Knights are now 7-0, 4-0 in league play, with Highland the only other unbeaten team in KMAC contests.
“We wanted to play a good, physical ball game,” said Northmor coach Scott Armrose. “In the second half, we played good, physical football. We made a point to correct some things on special teams and special teams were huge tonight.”
Special teams got Northmor started in the third. The opening kickoff went deep and was misplayed by the Bulldogs, pinning them on their own five. From there, the Golden Knight defense forced a three-and-out, setting the team up on the EK 46. That was a theme in the third quarter, as the entire 12 minutes were played in East Knox’s half of the field.
Max Lower had a long run to start the drive, but all except five yards were wiped out by a holding call. That wouldn’t deter Northmor, though, as quarterback Marcus Cortez then called his own number and dashed through Bulldog defenders for a 41-yard touchdown. East Knox would then compound their woes by being called offside on a successful extra point kick by Caleb Schnuerer. Armrose elected to then go for two and Lower made it to the end zone to make it 15-7.
The two teams would then trade punts, with the Northmor kick placing the Bulldogs on their own six. After two runs moved them to the nine, East Knox tried a pass on third down and Lester, under pressure, would get called for intentional grounding in his own end zone to add a pair of points to the Golden Knight lead.
Up by a 17-7 margin, Northmor would get the maximum benefit from that safety. Lower returned the free kick to the Bulldog 42 and the team would then embark on an 11-play drive that culminated on a one-yard scoring run from Lower on the first play of the fourth quarter. Schnuerer’s kick made it 24-7.
Northmor was able to do a lot of work on the ground, getting 136 yards by Lower, 116 by Cortez and six more from Niko Christo.
“The momentum started up front with our offensive line,” said Armrose. “It was just a matter of sustaining blocks up front.”
Armrose also had praise for Lower, whose bruising style of running gave East Knox fits all night long.
“Max Lower has always been a phenomenal athlete,” he said. “This year, he’s become a phenomenal athlete who also is a football player.”
Down the stretch, Northmor’s defense got the job done, including a Cortez interception of Lester — the East Knox QB’s first pick of the season — while the offense was able to control the ball and eat minutes off the clock. Armrose felt his defense rose to the occasion against a tough Bulldog offense that had been impressive through six weeks.
“They have weapons everywhere and an incredible athlete at quarterback and a tough offensive line,” he said of his opponents.
The game got off to a rough start for Northmor, as Cortez fumbled the ball to East Knox on the first play from scrimmage. However, the team’s defense forced a turnover on downs and the Golden Knights would take advantage, going 75 yards on 13 plays, with Lower running over multiple Bulldog defenders on a 13-yard scoring run to give his team a 7-0 lead eight minutes into the game.
Northmor wasn’t able to add to that advantage despite forcing a punt and a second turnover on downs on East Knox’s next two possessions. Penalties stalled their next two drives and put the Bulldogs in a position to tie things up going into the half. However, a dominating third quarter put them on the path to remaining perfect on the season.
“They’re all big at this point,” said Armrose. “When you’re at this point of the season and you’ve set yourself up to play big games in October, they’re all big.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS