CLAYTON — The game started badly and ended badly for Northmont against William Henry Harrison in the Division II, Region VIII regional quarterfinal playoff game Friday at Northmont.
In the end, the Wildcats walked away with a 20-17 victory to advance to the semifinals next Friday against Cincinnati Anderson at a site to be determined. Anderson crushed Kings 41-3 in its quarterfinal game.
The Thunderbolts botched the opening kickoff and almost got nailed in the end zone for a safety. Northmont managed to get the ball to the one yard line, gained a yard on a running play and after two incomplete passes had to punt.
Neither team managed to find the end zone with the first quarter ending in a scoreless deadlock.
However, on its last possession of the quarter Harrison began an 80 yard drive and scored on a three yard run by Cole Koops two plays into the second stanza.
Landen Anderson added the point after to put the Wildcats up 7-0 with 11:23 left in the first half.
Koops, a 5-foot-11, 210 pound running back proved to be a force to be reckoned with. He carried the ball 25 times and ended the night with 161 yards. The Wildcats amassed 242 total yard rushing.
After Harrison’s touchdown, Northmont drove 49 yards and got on the scoreboard on a 35 yard field goal by Christian Moncrief with 6:26 left in the half.
The Wildcats responded with a nine play; 80 yard drive capped by a six yard run by quarterback Dickie Engle. Anderson’s kick boosted Harrison’s lead to 14-3 with 3:04 left in the second quarter.
With their backs to wall the Thunderbolts fought back. Santana Keys returned the kickoff to the 31. On third down and eight Deuce Cortner (13-21, 168 yards, one TD, one interception), fired a 40 yard pass to Brady Lupton for a first down at the Wildcats’ 27.
Cortner then kept the ball for a 14 yard gain to pick up a first down at the 13. After a five yard run by Calilien Grant (11 carries, 49 yards, one TD), Cortner scored on an eight yard run but a holding penalty wiped out the score.
Two plays later Grant scored on a seven yard screen pass with 41 seconds left in the half. Moncrief’s kick cut Harrison’s lead to 14-10 at the half.
The Wildcats received the second half kickoff and drove to Northmont’s 45 but facing a fourth down and six were forced to punt. Harrison downed the punt at Northmont’s 11 yard line.
The Thunderbolts engineered an 11 play, 89 yard drive that ate up a majority of the third quarter clock. Facing a fourth down and one at the Wildcats’ five, Cortner kept the ball for a first and goal at the one.
From there Grant crashed into the end zone and Moncrief’s kick put Northmont up 17-14 with 3:15 left in the third quarter.
Facing a fourth down and 11 at Northmont’s 40 yard line, Harrison opted go for a first down. Engle threw a deep pass that fell incomplete.
Northmont took over on downs at its 40 but two plays later Harrison defensive back Hank Rotert intercepted a Cortner pass and returned the ball 31 yards to the Thunderbolts’ 32.
On third down and seven Santana Keys broke up a pass, but the Wildcats opted to go for a first down. On the next play Engle fired a 29 yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Luke Rogers that proved to be the winning score.
Josiah Belton blocked the point after, but Harrison held a 20-17 lead with 9:32 remaining.
Brady Lupton returned the ensuing kickoff to the 20. A pass to Lupton gained nine yards and a pass to D.J. Williams gave Northmont a first down at its 46. Grant picked up one yard on a run.
Cortner fired a pass to Daniel Ivory at Harrison’s 46. Ivory got hit hard by defensive back Donavin McKain at the 43 and fumbled. The Wildcats recovered the loose ball at the 43.
Northmont returned the favor a short time later. On third down and one at Northmont’s 26, Engle kept the ball and the defense forced a fumble. Two players tried to scoop up the loose ball but it ended up rolling out of bounds at the 40 forcing Harrison to punt.
Lupton made a fair catch at the four yard line with 3:15 left. A pass to Chris Pryor gave the Thunderbolts a first down at their 41. On a deep pass to Ivory the Wildcats were penalized for pass interference to give Northmont a first down at Harrison’s 44.
On fourth down and five Cortner threw a swing pass to Lupton who was hit immediately in the backfield and Harrison took over on downs at its own 40.
Cole Koops picked up 10 yards for a first down at the 50, then four yards for a second and six. Koops carried the ball again and was swarmed over by almost the entire Northmont defense but refused to go down. Koops kept churning his legs and dragged the defenders 12 yards for a first down at the 32.
Harrison ran out the clock with 1:04 left to preserve the victory.
“Harrison ran the ball really hard. They have a good offensive line,” said Northmont coach Tony Broering. “I knew it was going to be tough sledding for us because of the size difference between their offensive line and our defensive line. Our defense is built for speed and spread stuff.”
Harrison’s lineman weighed 240, 275, 280 and two at 300 pounds.
“We are really good against teams like Wayne and Centerville and teams like that spread it out,” Broering added. “A team like Harrison that doesn’t spread it out can sometimes give us an issue. The reality is that their passes hurt us. They got us on a long pass to Luke Rogers and on another pass he caught in the seam and scored. Give credit to Harrison. They did a really good job.”
Harrison amassed 347 total yards, 242 rushing and 105 passing. Northmont had 283 yards; 168 passing and 115 rushing. Harrison possessed the ball for 28:26, Northmont 19:34. Harrison had nine penalties for 123 yards, Northmont eight for 84. The Wildcats had one turnover while the T’bolts turned the ball over twice.
Reach Ron Nunnari by email: [email protected].