By Ron Nunnari
VANDALIA — Mistakes plagued Northmont in its season opener Friday at Butler. A pair of interceptions and a lost fumble on a kickoff return enabled Butler to hold a 10-7 halftime lead before the Thunderbolts rallied to post a 28-10 victory.
Dorian Brew returned the opening kickoff 33 yards to give Thunderbolts good field position at their 41. On third down and 13 Aviators’ inside linebacker Dohnavan Collins intercepted a Deuce Cortner pass at Butler’s 42 and returned the ball to Northmont’s 26.
The Aviators couldn’t pick up a first down and settled for a 40 yard field goal by Griffyn Bradley to take a 3-0 lead at 6:54 in the first quarter.
Northmont fumbled a short kickoff with the Aviators recovering the ball at the Thunderbolts’ 28. Luckily the defense forced Butler to punt, and the ball sailed into the end zone to give Northmont the ball at its own 20.
On the first play from scrimmage Cortner threw a 46 yard bomb to Daniel Ivory for a first down at Butler’s 34. After a five yard penalty Cortner found Brady Lupton wide open for a 39 yard touchdown pass. Jon Warren’s kick put Northmont up 7-3 with 3:24 left in the first quarter.
Butler drove 71 yards on its next possession. Facing fourth down and less than a yard at the Northmont six yard line, quarterback Mason Reckner kept the ball and tried to plow forward but got stuffed by a bucket of Bolts with Northmont taking over on downs at their own eight.
Northmont could sustain a drive and was forced to punt. The Aviators also failed to move the ball with Brady Lupton making a fair catch at the 40.
The Thunderbolts picked up a first down at Butler’s 28 thanks to a defensive holding penalty, but on the next play Cortner’s pass got picked off by defensive back Allen Mabson II who raced 72 yards for a touchdown with 2:29 left in the first half. Bradley’s kick gave Butler a 10-7 lead at halftime.
As sloppy as it looked in the first half, Northmont got its act together in the second half and took the lead for good on a 10 pass from Cortner to D.J. Williams with 3:49 left in the third quarter.
Cortner then connect with Dorian Brew for a 45 yard touchdown pass at 1:28 in the third quarter to put the T’bolts up 21-10.
Calilien Grant capped the scoring. On fourth down and one Grant broke through the line to romp 29 yards for a touchdown with 5:51 remaining to give Northmont a 28-10 victory.
“I thought Butler did a great job and I told their coach that I thought they did an awesome job in the first half,” said Northmont coach Tony Broering. “You could tell their kids were well prepared, so I give them a lot of credit. Yeah, we made some mistakes and helped them out, but a lot of the credit goes to them.”
When asked what he saw in the game that gives him confidence in his team in the coming weeks, Broering said the fact that his team was on the ropes and fought back was a good sign.
“The good thing was that we were down at halftime. I know that sounds crazy, but we need that sometimes to show that we can stick together,” Broering said. “I tell the boys all the time, just play hard and play together and it will all work out. They believed in each other, and they came out in the second half and got it done.”
Both teams sustained injuries during the game. Butler starting quarterback Luke Seibert left the game in the first half and at least three Northmont players got banged up during the contest.
Northmont had 321 total yards: 183 passing and 138 rushing. Butler had 87 total yards: 57 rushing and 30 passing.
Cortner completed nine of 15 pass attempts for 183 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Dorian Brew caught three passes for 66 yards and a TD, Daniel Ivory one for 46, Brady Lupton three for 43 and a TD, Trey Quincy one for 18 and D.J. Williams one for 10 and a TD.
Calilien Grant led the team in rushing with 67 yards on nine carries and a TD. Cortner had six carries for 43, Trey Quincy two for 10 yards, Quinten Churchman three for seven, Gavin Milby one for six and Santana Keys two carries for five yards.
Santana Keys had one interception for zero yards and Deuce Cortner had one for 28 yards. Terrence Harrell led the defense with 10 tackles, eight solo and Djuan Sales had eight solo tackles.
Gavin Milby had two punts with a 37.5 per kick average. Jon Warren was four for four on extra point kicks.
The Thunderbolts will host La Salle this Friday at 7 p.m. The Lancers won their season opener 28-3 against Colerain.
Reach Ron Nunnari at [email protected].