McDERMOTT —The 2019 campaign ended with Northwest claiming its eighth winning season in program history — a feat accomplished even before its final game of the season.
The 6-4 record the Mohawks achieved a year ago set the tone for what second-year coach Bill Crabtree and his staff hope to set as the benchmark for success in a new era for the program.
“Last year, I think we opened some eyes for what we were able to accomplish,” Crabtree said. “Got the kids to believe in themselves. Obviously it ended tragically, didn’t end the way we wanted it to. In the four losses that we had, really about a five-six minute span combined together is what separated us from a perfect season. We’ve focused a lot on becoming more mentally tough.”
The 2020 season comes on the heels of the 2019 season finale, which saw the Mohawks fall at Roy Rogers Field in a de facto SOC I championship game to Symmes Valley.
Since then, the Northwest program has seen its players — both upper and underclassmen — attend practice and offseason workouts in near uniformity.
“Full attendance all summer, 50-55 kids here every day from the day we started,” Crabtree said. “They’re working probably harder than any team I’ve seen out here working. Competing every day, they’re pushing each other. So many people working together towards the same goal so it’s nice.”
Brayden Campbell and Nathan Rivers, Northwest’s two leading rushers in 2019, will again be the staple of its ground attack.
The backfield duo returns for its junior and senior seasons, respectively.
Campbell easily broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark during his sophomore season, a year highlighted by his OHSAA record-tying nine-touchdown performance versus Green in Franklin Furnace.
Rivers would have broken the 1,000-yard mark during his junior season — before suffering a broken collarbone in the finale versus the Vikings.
Additionally, the Mohawks return their entire starting offensive line with the exception of Andrew Hyland.
Junior quarterback Austin Newman, a three-year starter at Northwest, also returns to take snaps and lead the Mohawk offense this season.
Zane Gilley, Kory Butler, Wyatt Brackman and Evan Lintz round out the Mohawks’ returning weapons on the offensive side of the ball.
Each also looks to fill spots in the Northwest linebacking corps after the graduation of Timmy Emmons and Billy Crabtree, as well as spots on the defensive line and in the secondary.
Kaden Zumbro and Caleb Crabtree are the Mohawks’ returning linemen who will be seniors this fall.
“We’re getting mature now,” Coach Crabtree said. “We’ve played with young kids for the last few years and now they’re juniors and seniors. It’s a nice problem to have when you have so many weapons that teams won’t be able to focus on Campbell or Rivers only.”
Northwest will begin its six-game season with a short road trip to face longtime rival Valley.
The Mohawks dropped a heartbreaker to the Indians in their first game at the newly-renovated Roy Rogers Field last season — a series they’ll be looking for their first win in since 2000.
From there, the Mohawks will compete in their regularly-scheduled SOC I slate of games beginning in week two with their home opener versus Notre Dame.
Of course, Northwest is OHSAA playoff-eligible for the first time in program history — after the OHSAA Board of Directors’ decision to allow each team in the state to be playoff eligible, if they choose to compete past their six-game regular season.
“We set the goal in the offseason that we wanted to be the first team to officially make it,” Crabtree said. “We didn’t want to wait till next year when they made it 12 teams, we wanted it this year. Great that we get to play, but we wanted to earn it.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved