By Ron Nunnari
CLAYTON — Xavier Vuong kicked a 28 field goal in overtime to lift Northmont to a 38-35 overtime home victory Friday over Springfield to hand the Wildcats their first loss while the Thunderbolts improved to 4-0 to take over first place in the Greater Western Ohio Conference.
Northmont scored 28 unanswered points to take a 35-28 lead late in the game before the Wildcats tied the score with 1:40 remaining to send the contest into overtime.
Springfield jumped out to an early lead scoring on an 80 yard drive in only three plays. Te’Sean Smoot completed a 50 yard pass to Shawn Thigpen and a 28 yard pass to Anthony Brown to give the Wildcats first and goal at the Northmont three. From there Smoot kept the ball and scored to put Springfield up 7-0 just 20 seconds into the game.
The quick scoring strike left Northmont stunned and silenced the faithful.
The Thunderbolts answered with nine play, 69 yard drive capped by a 37 yard touchdown pass by Cade Rice to Rod Moore. Vuong’s point after tied the game 7-7 with 9:25 left in the opening quarter.
It only took one play for Springfield to regain the lead. After Ben Van Noord returned the kickoff to the 27 he hauled in a deep pass from Smoot along the left sideline, cut back and raced down the middle of the field to score a 63 yard touchdown. Cole Yost’s kick put the Wildcats back on top 14-7.
After both teams exchanged punts Rice fired a deep pass to Moore that deflected off his helmet and was intercepted by Springfield free safety Delian Bradley. Bradley returned the interception to the Northmont 12 yard line. On the next play Smoot connected with Robert Jordan on a slant pass for a touchdown. Yost added the point after to put the Wildcats up 21-7 with 1:22 left in the first quarter.
Northmont was forced to punt on its next possession with Brown making a fair catch at the Wildcats’ 10 yard line.
Once again Springfield exploited the left side of Northmont’s secondary to score another quick touchdown. Smoot fired a pass to Brown along the left sideline and Brown cut inside and raced to the end zone for a 90 yard touchdown with 11 seconds left in the opening quarter. Yost’s kick boosted the Wildcats’ lead to 28-7 leaving the hometown crowd looking on in disbelief.
“We knew how special a player Anthony Brown was. They have a lot of good football players,” said Northmont coach Tony Broering. “You’ve got to give Springfield a lot of credit. They played their hearts out too. I love those kids over there. I coached all of those guys and I am proud of them for what they do.”
To make matters worse Northmont fumbled on its next possession. Fortunately on fourth down and 11 at the Thunderbolts’ 36 a deep pass fell incomplete and Northmont took over on downs.
Northmont fought back with a 12 play drive capped with Rice scoring on a six yard quarterback keeper. Vuong’s kick made in 28-14 with 3:47 left in the half, a score that stood at halftime.
“At halftime I told the kids, ‘Guys, its 28-14 and if we go out there and score to start the third quarter it’s a football game again,’” Broering said.
Neither team managed to score in the third quarter. Northmont fumbled deep in its own territory late in the quarter with middle linebacker Bryce Walker recovering the fumble at the Northmont 22. A slant pass from Smoot to Van Noord gave the Wildcats a first and goal at the two yard line but Springfield fumbled on the next play and Northmont recovered the loose ball at the three.
Nine plays later Rice fired a 60 yard touchdown pass to Moore and Vuong’s kick cut Springfield’s lead to 28-21 with 10:06 remaining in the game.
On Springfield’s next possession Zach Martin intercepted a Smoot pass to give Northmont a first down at the Wildcats’ 37. On fourth down and three Rice kept the ball and picked up a first down at the 20. Facing fourth down and 10 Rice fired a pass to Moore who was double covered in the left side of the end zone. Moore caught the ball over his right shoulder for the TD and Vuong’s kick tied the game 28-28 with 6:12 remaining.
Springfield was forced to punt on its next possession with kick rolling dead at the Northmont 29. Four plays later Rice hit Markus Allen with a 56 yard pass for the go-ahead touchdown. Vuong’s kick put the Thunderbolts on top 35-28 with 4:08 remaining.
The Wildcats came through in the clutch to send the game into overtime. Facing fourth down and 10 at their own 30 yard line the Wildcats opted to go for broke. Smoot fired a deep pass completion to Brown to give the Wildcats a first down at Northmont’s 21.
On third and five Smoot fired another pass to Brown for a first and goal at the one yard line and from there Smoot scored the TD. Yost’s kick tied it at 35 with 1:40 left.
That sent the game into overtime. Springfield got the first crack at the end zone. In overtime each team starts at its opponent’s 20 yard line. The Wildcats couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone and Yost came in to attempt a 37 yard field goal. His kick sailed wide right.
Northmont took over at the 20 and after an incomplete pass and two carries by Cameron Jones the Thunderbolts faced fourth down and one at the 11. Vuong came in to boot the game winning 28 yard field goal to keep Northmont’s undefeated record intact.
“It was a crazy game all the way around,” Broering noted. “We did believe in Xavier Vuong. He’s been great all year long. We tease him all the time that he is the MVP and he says, ‘No. It’s Cade Rice.’ He is a very humble kid, but we knew he could make that kick. We practice special teams a lot. Every Monday the whole practice is special teams and on Wednesday and hour of the practice is special teams, so we work really hard on that stuff.”
Springfield racked up 450 total yards and Northmont had 448. Smoot completed 18 of 31 passes for 400 yards with three TDs and one interception. Rice completed 20 of 43 passes for 295 yards with four TDs and two interceptions. Smoot led Springfield with 24 yards rushing on 20 carries for two TDs while Rice led Northmont with 91 rushing yards on 15 carries for one TD.
Receiving yards: Anthony Brown led the Wildcats with six receptions for 117 yards, Shawn Thigpen had five catches for 83 yards, Te’Sean Smoot three for 90 yards, Ben Van Noord three for 98 yards and Robert Jordan had one catch for 12 yards.
For Northmont Rod Moore had 11 receptions for 150 yards, Markus Allen seven catches for 121 yards, Darris Blanks one for 17 yards and Melvin Howard one for seven yards.
Time of possession: Springfield 20:35; Northmont 24:49.
Reach Ron Nunnari at (937) 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@aimmediamidwest.com or on Twitter @RonNunnari