LUCASVILLE — Bill Crabtree has been on the Northwest sidelines through the leanest of years.
On Saturday, Crabtree was leading the Mohawk football program on one of their greatest of nights.
That’s because Crabtree – a proud Northwest High School graduate – captured his first career coaching victory, as his young yet up-and-coming Mohawks handled the McClain Tigers 35-7 in a non-league tilt at Valley High School.
Why Valley as the host site you ask?
Northwest’s nice new facilities were not ready to be utilized as of Saturday night, and the Mohawks’ nearby rival graciously permitted them use of their sparkling facility.
In fact, in an interesting twist, the Tigers’ colors are Purple and Gold – the same as Valley’s.
That’s where the similarities stopped Saturday, as Northwest – amped up and decked out in tribute-bearing camouflage jerseys – dominated for basically all but two minutes.
The one-sided outcome made a winner out of Crabtree, the Mohawks’ first-year head coach.
In many years past, Northwest struggled for victories, but it has many more players this year, and – combined with Oak Hill no longer in the Southern Ohio Conference Division I – it is likely the consensus conference preseason favorite.
But Crabtree was elated over just gaining that initial non-league triumph.
The Mohawks are now 1-1, as they recovered nicely from their 36-7 season-opening loss against Southeastern.
“There is definitely a lot of excitement. The kids worked hard. I am glad to see it finally pay off for them. Last week, we were humbled. Tonight, we got back on track. We cut down the errors we made last week, and our play showed,” said Crabtree. “It feels great to be home and get a big win.”
Aside from McClain converting a turnover into its only touchdown to trim the deficit to 14-7, the Mohawks had their way all around otherwise – crafting impressive drives early and scoring on big plays late.
All throughout, Northwest defenders were right in the Tigers’ faces – particularly that of McClain quarterback Braden Wright.
The Mohawks forced five punts, including back-to-back three-and-outs to open the game – which Northwest converted into two touchdowns for a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Wright was 6-of-11 passing for 55 yards, as he officially rushed 12 times for minus-17 yards – thanks largely to several sacks.
“We played aggressive all night long on defense and kids were flying to the football,” said Crabtree. “It was nice to see.”
McClain collected just 144 total yards as the Mohawks forced three turnovers – two of which were lost fumbles inside the Tigers’ red zone.
That third Tiger turnover, however – another fumble – was indeed a back-breaker.
With Northwest leading 21-7 late in the third quarter, the Tigers returned a short kickoff 18 yards, starting in Mohawks’ territory at the 43-yard-line.
The Tigers tried an around-the-end run with Garrison Banks from the 39, but Banks lost 10 yards before fumbling the football – and the ball bounced backward.
Kaden Zumbro scooped up the loose pigskin at the McClain 48, and dramatically darted to the end zone for a touchdown with a minute-and-a-half remaining in the period.
With Dakota Secrest’s fourth of five successful extra-point kicks, the Mohawks suddenly extended their advantage to 28-7.
“That was a huge play for (Kaden) Zumbro picking that fumble up and scoring,” said Crabtree. “He is a lineman who doesn’t get touches on the football, but tonight he made the most of it.”
And, it only got better for the Mohawks – while getting worse for the Tigers.
Another short kickoff, and a 15-yard personal-foul penalty, once again allowed McClain to start in Northwest territory at the 39.
From the 26, Wright completed a short pass to Seth Wise, but he lost a fumble following a 14-yard gain to the Mohawks’ 12.
Two plays later – and only a minute into the fourth quarter – Brayden Campbell put the contest out of reach, sprinting outside and down the sideline for an 88-yard touchdown run to make it 35-7 with Secrest’s final extra point.
That was easily the biggest gainer of the game, and was brewing following Northwest’s previous scoring drives of 70 yards in 12 plays, 49 yards in seven plays and 64 yards in 13 plays.
The Mohawks operated from a two tight-end double-wing set, running multiple misdirection plays with either inside counters or quick isolations.
Northwest notched 361 total yards, all rushing on 50 attempts, as Campbell – who added short scoring runs of five and six yards prior to his 88-yard burst – went off for 182 yards on 15 carries.
“Ball control is the key to our offense. If we have the ball in our hands, they can’t score. We have to keep moving the chains. It worked out for us tonight. We ran the ball with a lot of success,” said Crabtree. “We have a lot of guys who can do good things out of the backfield and our offensive line is coming along.”
Nathan Rivers rushed for 96 yards on 11 attempts, as his 19-yard sprint on an inside iso made it 14-0 with Secrest’s second extra point.
Wyatt Brackman managed 69 yards on 15 totes, as the Mohawks punted once and held an 18-10 advantage in first downs.
The Tigers finally stopped the Mohawks on four consecutive snaps from the 3 right before the half, and then recovered a fumble at the Northwest 19 just four plays into the third frame.
Wright snuck in from a yard away at the nine-and-a-half minute mark, and the PAT kick trimmed the Tigers’ deficit to 14-7.
But the Mohawks responded with their 13-play, 64-yard, six-minute and 25-second scoring drive, featuring five first downs and a positive rush on every play by either Campbell, Rivers or Brackman.
Campbell crossed from six yards out with 2:55 remaining in the third.
That then set up Zumbro’s fumble return and Campbell’s long TD dash, as the Mohawks scored the final 21 points over the game’s final 14:55.
“We had a big stop right at the end of the first half to keep it to a 14-point game, and they (Northwest) didn’t break any big plays until late in the game,” said Orr-Zody. “They were consistently able to get three, four, five, six yards and kind of control the game, control the clock, control the ball, and we had a tough time defensively.”
Northwest will travel to Huntington on Friday night, as that meeting was originally scheduled to be played at Northwest, but was switched prior to Labor Day due to Northwest’s facilities not being ready.
Next season’s game will now be played at Northwest.
As for Saturday, regardless of rival Valley being the official host, it was indeed a night to remember for the Mohawks.
In fact, Crabtree believes it is only just the beginning.
“It’s great that people are actually talking about us in a positive manner for a change. Half of the battle at Northwest has always been getting people to believe,” he said. “It’s exciting to see everyone come together. It’s the start of something beautiful I think.”
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Stephen Forsha, sports editor of The Highland County Press, contributed to this report
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Northwest 35, McClain 7
McClain 0 0 7 0 – 7
Northwest 14 0 14 7 – 35
N — Brayden Campbell, 5-yard run (Dakota Secrest kick), 4:52, 1st (7-0 N)
N — Nathan Rivers, 19-yard run (Dakota Secrest kick), :29, 1st (14-0 N)
M — Braden Wright, 1-yard run (Braeden Bergstrom kick), 9:28, 3rd (14-7 N)
N — Bradyen Campbell, 6-yard run (Dakota Secrest kick), 2:55,3rd (21-7 N)
N — Kaden Zumbro, 48-yard fumble return (Dakota Secrest kick), 1:26, 3rd (28-7 N)
N — Brayden Campbell, 88-yard run (Dakota Secrest kick), 10:59, 4th (35-7 N)
Team statistics M N
First downs 10 18
Plays from scrimmage 48 56
Rushes-yards 37-89 50-361
Passing yards 55 0
Total yards 144 361
Cmp-Att-Int. 6-11-0 1-6-0
Fumbles-lost 5-3 5-2
Penalties-yards 5-16 3-30
Punts-average 5-27 1-32
RUSHING —McClain: Matt Bliss 9-53, Dalton Mischal 8-50, Sam Faulconer 6-13, Braden Wright 12-(-17) TD, Garrison Banks 1-(-10), Team 1-0; Northwest: Brayden Campbell 15-182 3 TD, Wyatt Brackman 15-69, Nathan Rivers 11-96 TD, Austin Newman 4-(-10), Billy Crabtree 2-16, Timmy Emmons 2-6, Evan Lintz 1-2
PASSING — McClain: Braden Wright 6-11-0-55; Northwest: Austin Newman 1-6-0-0
RECEIVING — McClain: Landen Eubanks 2-30, Seth Wise 1-14, Matt Bliss 1-8, Blake Gall 1-3, Dalton Mischal 1-0; Northwest: Zane Galley 1-0