One of the more interesting matchups on Friday night pits the Northwest Mohawks (1-7, 1-3) against the Green Bobcats (1-7, 0-5).
Both schools might not be at the top of the SOC or in the playoff picture, but a lot of pride is on the line between these two conference rivals, and perhaps some momentum heading in to the season finale next week and the offseason.
Northwest enters the game riding high, as the Mohawks won their first game of the season last week in a 48-12 triumph over Notre Dame.
Now, Northwest hopes they can continue to make strides in their offense, and that their defense shows up to play for the second week in a row.
The win was the first in nearly a year for the Mohawks, who hadn’t won a game since beating Green 35-6 on Oct. 21, 2016.
“The morale has been up, the kids are excited,” Northwest head coach Doug Montavon said. “We’ve had a rough season so far, and everybody has been staying positive.”
“To finally get the first win, you can definitely see the excitement in the locker room and in the kid’s eyes.”
On the other sideline, Green is riding a six-game losing streak. The Bobcats haven’t won since dispatching Hannan (WV) by a score of 12-0 on Sept. 2.
“We need to get a victory around here,” Green head coach Ted Newsome said. “We’re proud of what our effort is, we’re proud of our preparation, we’re proud of our toughness. But, we need to get a victory.”
Ultimately, Newsome knows Northwest is chasing the same thing.
“Northwest is in the same situation,” Newsome said. “Those kids work hard, those coaches work hard, and we’re all fighting for the same thing.”
The Bobcats have had a tough time facing the injury bug throughout the season. Those injuries have forced Newsome to make some tweaks to the game plan.
“We’re down to our sixth running back and our third quarterback,” Newsome said. “Your options are limited there, so we’re going to try and maybe do some things and different formations that Northwest hasn’t seen us in and be a little more multiple.”
The Mohawks offense came alive in the win over Notre Dame. Quarterback Garrett Rowe threw for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns, and also caught a touchdown in what was a big day for the entire offensive unit.
“Last week we had seven different kids score, and I believe four of them were receiving touchdowns by four different players,” Montavon said. “Ashton Hall had the 92 yard touchdown [catch], Timmy [Emmons] had a 56 yard touchdown catch and run, and Kyle Leslie had a nice touchdown catch.”
Montavon says the biggest factor in Rowe’s success was the play up front from the offensive line, which gave Rowe time to throw.
“The biggest thing last week was the offensive line stepping up and giving Garrett time in the pocket,” Montavon said. “Garrett’s got a good arm, and he’s able to complete passes, we’ve just struggled with giving him time up until this past Friday.”
That extra time in the pocket allowed Rowe to distribute the ball to his playmakers on the outside.
“[Rowe] has athletes out there at the receiver position that make good adjustments and nice runs after the catch,” Montavon said. “We’ve got a lot of kids on the team that have really good hands, and they’re running good routes and route combinations.”
Newsome and the Bobcats have been preparing all week in pass coverage, hoping to tame the throwing of Rowe and his weapons at receiver.
“They’ve got some receivers that get behind you,” Newsome said. “[Kyle Leslie], the tight end, he’s a real concern for us. He’s such a physical mismatch that they can toss it up to that kid.”
“We’ve got to be sound coverage wise in the back end and those guys have to understand what their responsibilities are.”
On offense, Green will hope to move the football and manufacture scoring drives. The Bobcats have scored over 20 points just once this season, and have totaled over ten points just three times.
Green will face a Northwest defense that played to the peak of their potential in the last game against Notre Dame.
“The defense probably outplayed our offense last Friday night, because they did a great job of shutting down Notre Dame’s offense,” Montavon said.
The Mohawks hope for another good effort from the Howards, Andrew and Hobby, and the defensive line.
“We’re looking for another big game out of Andrew Howard,” Montavon said. “We’ve got his brother Hobby Howard moved down beside him on the defensive line, and we’re moving Kaden Zumbro out to defensive end with Kyle Leslie to try and hold down the contain.”
Above all, though, it was the return of sophomore Billy Crabtree that gave Northwest a spark against the Titans last week.
“It was a big help to get Billy Crabtree back … He’s a leader in the locker room,” Montavon said. “He gets everybody fired up and has the attitude that he’s never going to lose in anything he does in life, and he takes that on to the football field.”
“Regardless of the situation or what happens, he’s still going to come at you and that kind of helps everybody else to get that same attitude.”
In what has been a tough season for both schools, both coaches are hoping this season has made an impression on their players moving forward on the football field and in life.
“This is a tough game, and a game that prepares you for the future,” Newsome said. “To be successful in this life, you’ve got to have a lot of things go your way, but most importantly you’ve got to be tough.
“Things aren’t always going to go your way, you’re going to be put in tough situations, and that mental toughness will be pay dividends down the road and throughout life.”
For Montavon and his coaches, Northwest is hoping the seniors will finish strong and leave a lasting imprint on the Mohawks football program.
“We want them to leave a legacy on the program as we’re trying to build something out there,” Montavon said. “Although it hasn’t went the way we wanted it to last year and this year, we have made strides in the right direction.”
Northwest is set to take on Green Friday night in Franklin Furnace, with the kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT