PORTSMOUTH — Believe it or not, what you saw from the Northwest Mohawks on Saturday night was indeed a bonafide passing attack.
That’s because the heavy run-oriented Mohawks – which almost always operate from their distinct double-wing and tight foot-to-foot line splits formation – went to the air early and often against the Notre Dame Titans, and succeeded.
Austin Newman attempted 11 passes, and threw two touchdowns while completing two others of at least 26 yards, as the visiting Mohawks handled the Titans 41-12 inside historic Spartan Stadium in Portsmouth.
With the victory, on Notre Dame’s Homecoming night, the Mohawks snapped a two-game losing streak – and evened their record to 3-3.
The youthful yet undermanned Titans, donning their white throwback uniforms which celebrated the 1967 and 1970 state championship squads, remain winless at 0-6.
The contest marked the Southern Ohio Conference Division I opener, as Northwest – with overwhelmingly winning the numbers game now in the SOC I – was going against the 25-man Titans.
Speaking of retro, while Northwest did succeed, and even surprise, some with their opening up of the passing playbook, they still ran the football with precision – amassing 283 yards on 42 carries.
In fact, a half-dozen Mohawks had at least three carries, as – with the score at 41-6 and the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running-clock rule in effect for six-and-a-half minutes – several players had the opportunity to touch the football at least once.
Northwest even showed some traditional running formations, but its base is the two tight-end appearance with everybody within a few feet of one another along the line of scrimmage.
But the first point addressed with first-year Northwest coach Bill Crabtree was the Mohawks’ passing game.
“We changed things up and threw the ball a little more tonight. We need to have success with that, and the passing game will open up the running game for us,” he said.
It definitely did on the Mohawks’ opening drive, which was the game’s initial possession.
With Northwest facing a 3rd-down-and-17 situation from its own 21-yard line, Newman threw a high down-field pass to Nathan Rivers, who out-jumped his Titan defender to make the nice catch for 27 yards.
Two plays later, Newman completed a 26-yard pass to Timmy Emmons to the Notre Dame 8, as Brayden Campbell capped off the seven-play, 72-yard drive that spanned just three minutes and 36 seconds.
Campbell, who rushed for 101 yards on only nine carries – ran in from eight yards on the next play – as Dakota Secrest kicked the first of his five extra points.
The Mohawks then forced the Titans into their first of three first-half three-and-outs – and this time drove 70 yards in 10 plays in four minutes and 18 seconds.
All but one of those plays were runs, as Newman called his own number from two yards out at the two-minute mark.
With Secrest’s second extra-point kick, the Mohawks had 14 points – all they ended up needing for the win.
On Northwest’s next series, it needed just two plays and 55 seconds to score again – and go up 20-0.
Newman connected with Campbell for a deep skinny post pattern, hitting him in stride and ahead of the Notre Dame defender for a 59-yard touchdown strike.
As Newman completed six passes for 136 yards with two TD, and Rivers rushed for 64 yards on a dozen attempts including two touchdowns on short third-quarter runs (one and seven yards), Crabtree praised the play of his young offensive line.
The Mohawks had a size and obvious depth advantage on the Titans, but they still have to execute and improve upon every snap.
Northwest never punted on Saturday night, never committed a turnover, and doubled up the Titans in first downs 24-12.
The Mohawks made it 27-6 by scoring on their fourth consecutive series to start the game, as Campbell picked up 25 yards to the Titan 30 – for Northwest’s largest running gain of the night.
They needed just seven plays and two-and-a-half minutes to score again, as Billy Crabtree capped the march with a 13-yard touchdown reception in the front corner of the end zone.
Secrest kicked his third extra point at the 2:17 mark of the second quarter for the three-touchdown (27-6) advantage.
“Our offensive line is doing as well as we can ask for up there,” said Coach Crabtree. “They are big and strong up front, and Austin is getting more comfortable throwing the ball. It’s coming together for sure.”
Not to be overlooked was Northwest’s defense, which limited the Titans to 163 yards.
Notre Dame needed to stay close early in order to have an upset opportunity late, but the Mohawks held its run-oriented offense to only 54 yards on 22 carries in the first half.
“Our defensive line is really coming along and we’re rotating a lot of guys in there, sometimes six or seven. We want to keep everybody as fresh as we can,” said Crabtree. “We definitely have a numbers advantage on a lot of these SOC I schools, but it’s a blessing and is paying off for us. We need to take advantage of our numbers.”
Notre Dame did score twice – the first following an impressive 13-play, 63-yard drive that consumed six minutes off the second-quarter clock.
The Titans picked up five first downs, and quarterback Jake McGuire snuck in from a yard out on 4th-and-goal at the 4:51 mark.
The Titans twice turned the ball over on downs in the third period, but didn’t give up and stopped the running clock with 5:23 remaining.
It was another six-minute scoring drive, covering 65 yards in 10 plays and ending with Logan Emnett scoring from four yards away.
Emnett amounted 78 yards on 15 carries to pace the Titans, as McGuire carried 11 times while completing two of his six passes.
Beau Hobbs – who had 46 yards on 12 rushes – had one reception for 17 yards, while Caleb Nichols made a good diving catch going out of bounds for 15 on the Titans’ second scoring series.
Notre Dame’s second touchdown gave it 38 points for the season, although the small-school Division VII Titans have now allowed 247 – as their last three opponents are the OHSAA equivalent of at least Division VI.
Notre Dame travels to Green on Friday night, while the Mohawks – a consensus favorite for the SOC I title – host Sciotoville East (1-4) in their second game since the sparkling renovation of Roy Rogers Field.
Northwest successfully shook off the outcome of its first game there – a 21-14 overtime heartbreaking loss against archrival Valley.
The Mohawks have the primary goal of capturing the SOC I championship, and – with some fancy passing on display on Saturday night – took that first step.
“We’ve talked all week about nothing else matters now except winning games and doing things right in the conference,” said Crabtree. “The kids overcame the heartbreak with Valley last week, came out tonight and responded well for the first conference victory. The kids are working, the kids are getting better, and they are gaining confidence. We’re focusing on one game at a time.”
* * *
Northwest 41, Notre Dame 12
Northwest 14 13 14 0 – 41
Notre Dame 0 6 0 6– 12
NW — Brayden Campbell, 8-yard run (Dakota Secrest kick), 8:22, 1st (7-0 NW)
NW — Austin Newman, 2-yard run (Dakota Secrest kick), 2:04, 1st (14-0 NW)
NW — Brayden Campbell, 59-yard pass from Austin Newman (kick failed), 10:50, 2nd (20-0 NW)
ND — Jake McGuire, 1-yard run (kick failed), 4:51, 2nd (20-6 NW)
NW — Billy Crabtree, 13-yard pass from Austin Newman (Dakota Secrest kick), 2:17, 2nd (27-6 NW)
NW — Nathan Rivers, 1-yard run (Dakota Secrest kick), 6:06, 3rd (34-6 NW)
NW — Nathan Rivers, 7-yard run (Dakota Secrest kick), 1:12, 3rd (41-6 NW)
ND — Logan Emnett, 4-yard run (pass failed), 5:23, 4th (41-12 NW)
First Downs 24 12
Plays from scrimmage 53 47
Rushes-yards 42-283 41-131
Passing yards 136 32
Total yards 419 163
Cmp-Att-Int. 6-11-1 2-6-0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 6-55 7-55
Punts-average 0-0 3-37.7
RUSHING —Northwest: Nathan Rivers 12-64 2TD, Brayden Campbell 9-101 TD, Billy Crabtree 3-27, Kory Butler 3-25, Evan Lintz 3-23, Wyatt Brackman 3-8, Zane Gulley 2-15, Darius Williams 2-12, Dakota Secrest 1-3, Austin Newman 1-2 TD, Caleb Goodson 1-2, Chad Bowen 1-1, Team 1-0; Notre Dame: Logan Emnett 15-78 TD, Beau Hobbs 12-46, Jake McGuire 11-5 TD, Austin Vaughters 2-2, Tanner Richards 1-0
PASSING — Northwest: Austin Newman 6-11-1-136 2TD; Notre Dame: Jake McGuire 2-6-0-32
RECEIVING — Northwest: Brayden Campbell 1-59 TD, Nathan Rivers 1-27, Timmy Emmons 1-26, Billy Crabtree 1-13 TD, Levi Tackett 1-6, Wyatt Brackman 1-5; Notre Dame: Beau Hobbs 1-17, Caleb Nichols 1-15
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