Eventually, the coach relinquished: “It’s your time, if you guys want it, go out there and set it up.”
It was a wise choice. The Johnnies defense forced a fumble on the game’s first play and a three-and-out on Northridge’s second possession, paving the way to a dominating 28-0 home win.
Johnstown’s seventh consecutive victory clinched sole possession of the team’s first MBC title in ten years and secured a home playoff game next weekend. Early prognostications have Johnstown hosting Scioto County’s Minford in the first round of the Division V tournament.
For all intents and purposes Mitchell Dawson’s 13-yard run with 9 minutes 8 seconds left the first half was all Johnstown (8-2, 7-0 MBC) would need.
Johnstown held Northridge to 96 yards of total offense and allowed the Vikings to reach beyond midfield just once the entire game. Northridge has 22 yards of offense in the second half.
“The way we were playing tonight,” defensive back Todd McKnight said. “I think we could have won 7-0.”
The final score was not completely indicative of the nature of the game.
Johnstown’s powerful running attack was held somewhat in check by Northridge (5-5, 3-4), as Johnstown lead by one touchdown heading into the final quarter.
In that fourth quarter Johnstown appeared finally to wear down the Vikings.
A botched punt snap set up a 1-yard run by fullback Will Carter at 8:03, and Northridge’s second fumble of the night led to another Carter run at 3:39.
In between tailback Shane Sheppard scampered 43 yards for a score.
“As soon as we got that game-breaker I knew we had it.” McKnight said of the special teams mistake.
Tailback Palmer Smith (20 carries, 82 yards) provided most of the offense for Northridge, which suffered due to a lack of depth and a few injuries. Most notably captain Justin Shaw, the Vikings’ quarterback all season, was relegated to wing back due to a shoulder issue and then left the game for good early in the second quarter with a hamstring injury.
“They got 35 players and we have about 14,” Northridge head coach Tim Priest said. “That’s a good football team, but numbers will just kill you. We just wore down.”
Though the OHSAA will not make playoff pairings official until Sunday, Johnstown’s opponent will find itself up against one of the area’s most confident teams. Along with the winning streak, Johnstown has outscored its last four opponents by a combined 133-17.
“I feel like we have the momentum going on our side,” lineman Adam Dague said. “If we play like we have been, we’ll be ready.”