McDERMOTT — Of course, life —and football — are often times about second chances.
For the Northwest Mohawks, there may never be a better second opportunity than what they have in front of them for Friday night.
That’s because the Mohawks —having already clinched at least a share of the Southern Ohio Conference Division I championship — go for the program’s first outright division title, as Northwest travels to Symmes Valley for much more than a simple measure of revenge.
The Mohawks — which until 2014 took their lumps in the larger SOC II — plays for an OUTRIGHT league title, as they split the championship with Symmes Valley and Oak Hill in that first (2014) SOC I campaign.
But now, as second-year Northwest head coach Bill Crabtree has maintained in interviews, his Mohawks have no interest in sharing the crown.
“We want it outright for our kids. Our kids deserve it. They have been beat down out here for so long,” said Crabtree, following their share-clinching win over Eastern. “We’ve focused a lot this year on finishing games and just finding ways to dig deep and win. That’s what we’re shooting for this week. Finding a way to grind it out and make big things happen.”
But the host Vikings, the defending division champions, will gain a share with a victory —as Eastern will be part of a three-way dance if it, as overwhelmingly expected, defeats Green.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Symmes Valley High School.
The 4-1 Mohawks are a perfect 4-0 in the division — thanks to putting together by far their best game of the season a week ago against Eastern.
Northwest roared out to a 21-0 lead following the opening quarter, rolled up 370 rushing yards including four touchdowns on 26 carries and 254 yards by Brayden Campbell, and forced four Eastern turnovers en route to a dominating 42-20 triumph.
At the time, Crabtree called the Eastern affair “the biggest game of the year” —and his Mohawks indeed passed the test.
Now, the matchup against the Vikings “is the big one for us” —and is a year in the making after what went down in 2019.
When Symmes Valley visited Roy Rogers Field in late October, that contest was in fact for an outright league championship —with the Vikings winning 22-16.
It broke a 6-6 tie in the all-time series, which with the exception of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, has been running every season starting in 2006.
Before last year, Northwest had won four of the previous five meetings including two years ago in quadruple overtime — with the Mohawks’ only other wins being in 2007 and in their only other game in 1978.
More importantly, though, the Vikings’ vanquishing cost Northwest its opportunity at an outright title.
The Mohawks haven’t forgotten either, Crabtree claimed.
“We’re in the driver’s seat, but we were in the driver’s seat last year. Symmes Valley came in here last year and took it from us,” said the coach. ““Our kids have focused on this game this week for an entire year. It’s the big one for us.”
And, for the 4-1 Vikings (3-1 SOC I) too.
In addition to being the Mohawks’ first game on grass all year, Northwest will be facing a step up in competition —as the Vikings, despite a 50-22 loss against Eastern for their only defeat, are much healthier than they were say three weeks ago.
Symmes Valley, under veteran head coach Rusty Webb, rallied from a 16-0 deficit at Notre Dame last week — to capture a 24-16 overtime victory and set itself up for Friday night.
With Webb, the Vikings have long been a run-oriented club —as this season’s Symmes Valley unit appears to be more athletic.
Luke Leith is the Vikings’ quarterback, and has carried 54 times for 511 yards and seven touchdowns with a 9.5 yards per carry average.
He has also completed 8-of-14 passes for 124 yards with a score, as Josh Ferguson — who himself has rushed for 367 yards and five TDs on 37 carries for a 10-yard per-carry average — is the leading receiver with five receptions and 62 yards and that lone TD.
Grayson Walsh, who has completed three of six passes, will be another weapon the Mohawks must account for — as he has two receptions for 24 yards.
A third running back — Ethan Patterson — is another Viking ballcarrier with at least three touchdowns, 33 carries, 304 yards and a 9.2 yards per carry average.
While Northwest is a massively-heavy run-oriented unit itself, with its unique attack of two tight ends and foot-to-foot line splits, it must still generate a defensive line surge —and be able to tackle the Vikings either in space or preferably near the line of scrimmage.
Symmes Valley’s two tackles — Caleb Mullens on the left and Kayson Adkins on the right — are considered the top linemen, along with Webb’s son and center Brayden Webb.
The Vikings will also employ two or three tight ends in sets.
“Symmes Valley runs the ball so well, so we have to stop them and make plays defensively. (Symmes Valley coach) Rusty (Webb) doesn’t change a lot up,” said Crabtree.
But what can change is the Mohawks’ history — as they have their second, and an even better, opportunity at an outright SOC I championship.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved