HUBER HEIGHTS — Northmont earned a playoff berth with a narrow 28-27 victory Friday at Wayne. The Thunderbolts led 21-7 at halftime but the Warriors fought back with a strong effort to make the game a nail biter.
Northmont improved to 6-4 overall while Wayne ends its season at 3-7.
Northmont (No. 7) will play at Toledo Whitmer (No. 2) on Friday at 7 p.m. in the OHSAA Region II playoff bracket. Pre-sale tickets are $7 and will be available from Tuesday until noon on Friday at the Northmont Athletics Department and at Photo Sports (corner of Wolf Drive and National Road). Tickets at the game are $9 at the gate.
“We have to see what everybody else did,” said Northmont coach Tony Broering. “We are just happy to be in the playoffs. To be honest, it has been a tough season and there were a lot of injuries tonight. We’ve had some terrible injuries all season, so we are just happy that we got in. Now we just have to get healthy enough to win. We have to check on a couple of our guys. It was tough game and was hard hitting with a lot of stuff going on. It is a healthy rivalry and it got a little chippy, but I was proud of my boys. I was happy for them that we won but I was more happy and proud to be their coach because of the way they conducted themselves. We didn’t get any personal fouls or any late hits. Wayne had all of that stuff so I was very proud of the boys for the way they conducted themselves.”
The game was laden with a total of 27 penalties, 14 against the Thunderbolts for 138 yards and 13 against the Warriors for 129 yards. In the first half alone there were 18 penalties.
The two most costly penalties were slapped on Wayne. After running back Devin Nelson scored on a two-yard run to cut Northmont’s lead to 21-20 with 4:24 remaining in the third quarter Northmont wide receiver Jazz Keys returned the ensuing kickoff deep into Wayne territory to the 27 yard line. Keys was forced out of bounds along the left sideline and multiple penalty flags began flying. Several Wayne coaches ran across the field to help restore order as players from both teams engaged in pushing and shoving.
When the dust settled the Warriors got slapped with a pair of personal fouls; one for a late hit out of bounds and another for unsportsmanlike conduct to give the Thunderbolts a first and goal at the three yard line. That should have led to an easy score but the Thunderbolts got slapped with a pair of false start penalties before quarterback Keaton Kesling fired a four yard touchdown pass to Marcus Allen (seven receptions, 121 yards, three TDs). Brandon Goodwin’s kick gave Northmont a 28-20 lead with 2:31 left in the third quarter.
Wayne answered the call with a huge reception by senior wide receiver Damien Boles. Jah’rod Lankford returned the kickoff 35 yards to give the Warriors a first down at their 36. Running back Devin Nelson gained 11 yards for a first down at the 47. Lankford picked up five yards to set up a second down and five at the Northmont 48. Two plays later Lankford gained seven yards for a first down at the Thunderbolts 40 yard line.
Hunter Kinley sacked Wayne quarterback Bryan Finley to set up a second down and 11 to end the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter Finley threw a 32 yard pass to Boles to give the Warriors a first and goal at the nine yard line.
On third and goal from the six Northmont got slapped with a pass interference penalty to set up a third and goal from the three. From there Lankford scored on a three-yard run. Ian Childress added the point after to cut Northmont’s lead to 28-27 with 10:19 remaining.
Wayne forced Northmont to punt on its next possession with the Warriors taking possession at their 31. On third and 10 Finley fired a 24 pass to Boles to give Wayne a first down at Northmont’s 30. On fourth down and seven Finley dropped back to pass, couldn’t find an open receiver and tried to run for the first down. The Thunderbolts tackled Finley at the 24 to take over on downs with 5:33 remaining.
From there the Thunderbolts were able to control the ball and kill the clock. The drive was sustained by a big third down completion by Kesling (20-34, 314 yards, three TDs, three interceptions) to Justin Golson for 24 yards to give Northmont a first down at the Wayne 30.
Golson set up Northmont’s first touchdown. Wayne squandered an early scoring opportunity by fumbling inside the Thunderbolts’ 10. Golson (seven receptions, 118 yards) caught a 61 yard pass to give Northmont a first down at Wayne’s 19. A few plays later running back Michael Franklin scored on a four-yard run. Goodwin’s kick made it 7-0.
After Northmont’s defense forced Wayne to punt Warrior’s linebacker Kaelen Turner intercepted a pass on first down and returned it to the Thunderbolts’ 36. Three plays later Finely tossed a 13 yard touchdown pass to R.J. Mukes. Childress added the extra point to tie the game 7-7.
Wayne’s De’Andre Ham picked off a Kesling pass on the first play of the second quarter but Northmont forced the Warriors to punt. On fourth down and 35 Andrew Knick partially blocked the Wayne punt with the ball downed at Northmont’s 48.
A 14 yard screen pass to Michael Franklin moved the ball to the Wayne 18 and a penalty on the same play gave Northmont a first and goal at the nine. After Kesling got sacked for a loss he bounced back by tossing an 18 yard touchdown to Marcus Allen. Goodwin’s kick put the Thunderbolts up 14-7.
De’Shaun Harewood intercepted a Wayne pass to give Northmont a first down at the Warriors’ 36. Four plays later Kesling fired a 25 yard touchdown pass to Allen with 3:52 left in the first half. Goodwin’s kick gave the Thunderbolts a 21-7 halftime lead.
Wayne engineered a 98 scoring drive in the third quarter with Devin Nelson scoring on a 23 yard run. Wayne’s extra-point sailed wide left and proved to be difference in the game’s outcome.
Ron Nunnari can be reached at 684-9124, via email at Rnunnari@aimmediamidwest.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind