CLAYTON – “We need to take advantage of our opportunities,” said distraught Northmont senior quarterback John Nussman shortly after his Thunderbolts lost to Centerville 14-7 on Saturday. “We punted once all night and yet we only scored seven points. Usually when you don’t punt you score 60. We really need to learn how to finish.”
Last year the T-Bolts christened the Elk’s home field with a thrilling 42-30 come from behind victory. Most of that cast of characters is gone, but shed no tears. Both teams return enough talent to be considered frontrunners in their respective divisions in the GWOC.
Northmont which plays in the GWOC North Division, drops to 1-2 overall, while the Elks, members of the Central, improves to 2-1. Next year Northmont joins Centerville, Wayne, Fairmont, Beavercreek and the new consolidated Springfield High School in the Central.
But that’s next year, this is now.
“It was a tremendous battle, a very physical contest, and a typical game in the series,” Centerville head coach Rob Ullery said. 'We’re going to play every year now that they are moving into our division and that is how it should be. We’re excited. Great programs should have to play each other.'
The game was actually scheduled for Friday but was delayed due to lightning after six plays. Even so, the first half Saturday was played in a driving rain.
“The kids were ready to play last night, so this was a tough situation,” Ullery continued. “We tried to appeal to their maturity and help them keep their focus, but it isn’t an easy thing to actually do in practice.”
This was a scoreless defensive struggle until the Elks converted a missed 30-yard field goal into a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive late in the first quarter. All-conference signal caller David Fleming scored from the three to make the score 7-0.
Fleming would end up with 130 yards on 27 carries. He would also chip in with 30 yards on 1-for-2 passing. The versatile Matt Daly contributed 55 yards on the ground, 30 yards receiving and several noteworthy blocks.
Centerville’s senior running back James Cravens would eventually put the T-Bolts away with 104 yards and a touchdown on 20 bruising totes off tackle.
On the last possession of the first half, Northmont took possession at the Elk’s 47-yard line and proceeded to drive down the field. But on 4th and goal from the four Centerville’s Tony Folino knocked down a Nussman to C.J. Taylor pass in the end zone to end the threat.
Demonstrating beyond doubt that what goes around comes around; the Thunderbolts converted a Centerville missed field goal into a six-play, 80-yard drive to end the third quarter. Korey Ringer’s one-yard touchdown plunge tied the score at 7-7.
Ringer ended the night with 80 yards on 15 carries despite Centerville’s relentless defensive presence. Nussman finished with 67 yards on 11-of-16 passing, and 65 yards on the ground.
The Elks demonstrated why they are one of the most storied programs in the region when they knocked out the T-Bolts with a 15-play, 83-yard fourth quarter drive that resulted in the game-winning touchdown – a Cravens 1-yard run.
“They have an outstanding offensive line and a whole crew of excellent running backs.” Ullery said. “Northmont is hard to prepare for because they have a very diversified offense and the players to execute it.
“They can hurt you in a lot of ways: with an inside running game, the option, the trap, the bootleg, and they can throw long over most defensive backs. They are tough to prepare for, and our defensive coaches did a great job. Keeping them to one touchdown is something that not many teams are going to do this year.”
The Elks did an excellent job of disguising their intentions on defense, despite the notoriety of their 3-3-stack system.
“Everybody knows what we are trying to do,” Ullery said. “Against good teams like tonight we have to get our guys up to the line of scrimmage and make the proper adjustments. You just can’t set up and say ‘Here we are, come beat us’ because they just might beat you.'
Whenever Centerville was doing goods things it seemed as if offensive tackle Adam Replogle was in the vicinity. His ability to fully extend his arms and maintain low pad levels stood out on a night that showcased two of the best lines in the Miami Valley.
“Adam is an outstanding football player,” Ullery said. “The best part about it is that he is only a junior. He is a quality tackle prospect and it is likely that he will be one of the best players around next season. We’re really looking forward to seeing how he can help us.'
Northmont head coach Lance Schneider also knows good football when he sees it. Having coached at both Wayne and Northmont he has developed more than his share of blue chip players and championship football teams.
“'It was a great, clean game with no turnovers,” a subdued Schneider said. “Centerville as able to make the plays that mattered and that was the difference. I thought that they were able to get into manageable third and fourth down situations and we couldn’t do that.
“They were a better football team tonight, but next year… who knows?”