MCDERMOTT — Northwest’s football history is, well, dim.
To get the full scope of what’s at stake for their program Friday, it feels more than necessary to examine their history with a broad view.
In the 60-year history of Northwest football (est. 1959), the Mohawks have just eight winning seasons, this year’s 6-3 mark (so far) being the latest addition of the eight seasons (1961, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1985, 1994, 2016, 2019) where they have finished above .500. From 1959-2018, Northwest’s all-time record is 181-391-2 (31.5%) with a 71-245 record in conference play.
From 2000-2013, Northwest finished 2-60 in SOC II games — with wins over Minford in 2005 and Waverly in 2010 making up those lone two wins. The program’s last wins against West came in 1998, against Wheelersburg in 1970, and against Valley in 2000.
The program’s down-trodden nature forced their move to the SOC I for football only beginning with the 2014 season where, since the move, the Mohawks have enjoyed some success.
In that 2014 season, Northwest finished with their best record since 2000 (5-5) while also clinching a tri-share of the SOC I championship with Oak Hill and Symmes Valley.
A year later in 2015, under the direction of then head and now assistant coach Brooks Fry, Northwest finished 7-3, their best record since 1973 and the second-best record in school history. From 2014-18, Northwest has a 15-14 record in SOC I play.
The last time Northwest had a chance to win an outright league championship was of course in 2014 when a 33-14 road loss to Oak Hill split the SOC I title three ways between the Oaks, Mohawks, and the Vikings of Symmes Valley.
That same year, Northwest finished 11th in the Division V Region 17 postseason computer rankings, the highest finish in school history as the program still searches for it’s first-ever postseason berth. Fry finished his tenure at the helm in McDermott following the ‘15 season with the third-highest winning percentage among coaches in program history (21-39, 35% winning percentage).
This Friday night, under the bright lights at the newly-renovated Roy Rogers Field, the 2019 version of the Mohawks have the chance to put 60 years of history with no outright conference championships aside with a home Senior Night win over visiting Symmes Valley.
“It’s been great seeing everyone come together,” Northwest coach Bill Crabtree said of his first season as the Mohawks head man. “Coach (Bill) Shannon and Coach (Thomas) Caudill who were with Coach (Brooks) Fry where we had success a few years ago, Coach (Jesse) Carver came along this season. To see the excitement within the community is really special. Everywhere we go we have full stands; everyone is staying positive, which has been huge for our kids. And to see these seniors go out on top has been exciting.”
After a rocky start to the year with a 36-7 road loss to a postseason-bound Southeastern team, Crabtree’s Mohawks have rattled off a 6-2 record with a home overtime loss to county rival Valley counting as one of their two missteps.
While also being one of the two blemishes on their record since their week one opener, Crabtree believes that loss to Valley also spearheaded the Mohawks’ red-hot pace during the second half of the season.
Since SOC I play began that week, Northwest has outscored their conference opponents by a margin of 188-68, by far the largest in school history.
“I really think the Valley game was a turning point for us,” Crabtree said. “A lot of people didn’t give us a chance in that game. Our kids came in and put in the work and played their hearts out. Unfortunately we lost in overtime, but I think you’ve seen a lot of great things come out of that game. And I think that’s when the community really started believing too.”
Crabtree’s first season at the helm has been a success by all considerable measures. Wins, player improvement, interest in the program by younger players, and fan support.
Whether it’s the weekly post-game Facebook interview series, “Baer Cave”, hosted by local pastor and McDermott community member Brian Baer which gives community members instant reaction from Northwest players and coaches alike after games, or the droves of people who are expected to be in attendance for Friday’s SOC I championship game or watching via a Facebook Live broadcast feed that can be found on the “Mohawk Football Nation” Facebook page, the support for Northwest football has been encouraged and felt by those the inside the locker room.
“Their support has been huge for us,” Northwest senior Timmy Emmons said. “It makes us feel like that win or lose, we’re going to have everyone’s support. But also them being there at the games to support us, it encourages us to continue wanting to do things better than we’ve done over the past few years. It’s great to have an awesome community behind us.”
“Our community’s support has definitely been a big factor in our success this year,” Billy Crabtree, Northwest senior and Bill’s oldest son, said. “In the past when we’ve struggled, that support has faded. But when you come out every Friday night and the stands are packed, it’s really nice to see and it helps us knowing that support is there. Even games that are 45 minutes away, our community has been there to support us.”
While an SOC I championship is on the line for both sides, postseason points also come at a premium to the team who ultimately walks away a winner.
Northwest, ranked as the 12th team in the Division V Region 19 rankings as of Tuesday, needs Friday’s win as well as a host of teams ahead of them to lose in their week 10 games to clinch the school’s first-ever playoff berth. While it’s still technically possible, a lot has to happen for the Mohawks to be postseason bound.
Symmes Valley, ranked as the 9th team in the Division VII Region 27 rankings as of Tuesday, would likely clinch a postseason berth with a road win over the Mohawks, the program’s first since 2014. A loss Friday would likely keep the Vikings out of the postseason for the fifth straight year.
Knowing what’s at stake, Crabtree and his players can certainly expect a dogfight.
“They’re big and strong like they always are,” Coach Crabtree said of Symmes Valley. “We’ve told the kids all week to expect them to come out and hit us in the mouth. Our numbers are very comparable when we talk about skill position guys vs. our guys we use as practice players. It’s going to come down to who wants it more come Friday night.”
“We’ve got to go in with a level head,” Emmons said. “We know what to expect going into the game. If we do what we’re told and stick to our game plan, we’ve got a good shot at winning.”
“Being able to protect against the run is definitely our biggest challenge,” Billy Crabtree said. “Their running back and quarterback are both really talented and athletic. If we stop them, we can win.”
Win or lose Friday, it certainly feels as if there is a culture shift taking place for the program in Scioto County most in need of a culture change.
While Friday’s game decides if they can claim their first outright conference championship in program history, Crabtree is also trying to see beyond one game of many in his and his staff’s attempt to continue the upward trajectory of Northwest football.
“Being from here is a different mentality,” Crabtree said. “We’ve always prided ourselves on being tough. In the past, we’ve kind of let that go. We’re trying to bring back that toughness and that togetherness. When you see one of our guys out, there’s a crew of them together, and that’s what we’ve needed here for a long time. They’re starting to get the mentality that being a Mohawk is a great thing.”
Northwest and Symmes Valley will kick off this Friday at the newly-renovated Roy Rogers Field in McDermott at 7 p.m.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved