PIQUA — Playing in a Greater Western Ohio Conference loaded with high-caliber quarterbacks, Northmont’s John Nussman sometimes gets lost in the pack. Heck, the senior signal caller even ranks fifth in passing in his own six-team North Division.
Those other QBs, though, would love to be where Nussman is today: Sitting atop the GWOC North as division champions.
Nussman guided Northmont to a 17-7 win over Piqua at Alexander Stadium on Friday. His numbers weren’t flashy, but they were effective. Nussman completed 4-of-11 passes for 43 yards and rushed 10 times for 41 more in the win. His key fourth-down pass to Nate Wilburn-Ogletree kept alive a fourth-quarter drive that ended with the clinching score.
“I know I’m not going to get the stats they do,” Nussman said of fellow GWOC North QBs Domonick Britt (Trotwood-Madison), Jason Albertini (Butler) and Justin Hemm (Piqua). “I don’t really care about stats. We have more wins than them all.”
At least one more would be even better. Northmont (7-3, 5-0 GWOC North) entered Friday’s game ninth in the Division I, Region 4 computer points. But the win over D-II Piqua — which had already clinched a spot in the postseason — elevated Northmont to a likely match-up at Cincinnati Sycamore. It’s the T-Bolts third straight playoff appearance.
“I really like this team. I like the chemistry,” Northmont coach Lance Schneider said. “I like the kids. We haven’t had any problems all year. They deserve what they get. We run the ball effectively. We play great defense. Anything can happen. Region 4 is a very tough region, but the teams that win it are the teams that do those things.”
Piqua, the defending D-II champs, struggled against the T-Bolts’ Gang Green defense. An Indians’ team averaging 192 yards per game rushing finished with 22 on Friday. Hemm, who went over 1,000 yards on the season last week, finished with 20 yards on 22 carries.
A Northmont defense allowing 142 yards rushing per game has stepped it up of late. Only four backs have cracked 100 yards against the T-Bolts (Centerville’s David Fleming and James Cravens, Miamisburg’s Mike Wiley and Troy’s Corey Brown) while holding down some of the GWOC’s best in Trotwood RB and Penn State recruit Michael Shaw (27 yards), UC-bound Britt (7 yards) and GWOC-second leading rusher Logan Zechar (24 yards).
“We’re fast and we’re real good up front. Any time you have that recipe you’re good,” Schneider said. “And we’ve got some really good defensive backs.”
Piqua’s (7-3, 3-2) lone score came on the game’s opening drive, and with a little luck. On fourth-and-7 on their own 28-yard line, Piqua punter David Rolf saw the snap sail high over his head and into the endzone. Rolf chased it down, and with a defender closing in, elected to avoid the safety. He instead scrambled and hit Hemm for a 24-yard gain. Eight plays later, Hemm’s play-action fake froze the defense and allowed Logan Rasor to get behind the secondary for a 19-yard touchdown.
Northmont tied it with 3:26 left in the first quarter on Mark Mays’ 37-yard burst up the middle. The T-Bolts took the lead as time expired in the first half on Jordan Rose’s 31-yard field goal into a driving rain that started just five plays earlier.
“It was into the rain and into the wind, but he’s got a pretty strong foot,” Schneider said. “It’s a big kick for a kid who hasn’t really been in that situation before.”
The rain stopped before the second half but left the middle of the field slippery and muddy. That only added to the Indians’ woes. After that first scoring drive, the Indians never crossed their own 32-yard line with six 3-and-out possessions the rest of the half. Piqua crossed midfield once in the second half, but Daren Youngberg’s interception ended that at the Northmont 44.
“It takes a load off the offense, definitely,” Nussman said of the defense. “Even if we don’t score, we can punt it deep and stop them. Our defense is incredible.”
After Youngberg’s pick, Mays capped the scoring with a 5-yard TD with 6:05 left in the game. He finsihed with 135 yards on 20 carries for his fifth straight 100-yard game and sixth in seven games overall. Nussman had a pair of 11-yard scrambles and hit Wilburn-Ogletree (3 catches for 35 yards) for 10 yards on that key fourth-down conversion.
Northmont outgained Piqua 240-97 in total offense. Now if they can keep that going next week. One thing is for sure, the T-Bolts are playoff tested. Those three losses came to Pittsburgh Central Catholic (34-6), Centerville (14-7) and Wayne (21-14).
“After the Pittsburgh loss, you said one loss doesn’t hurt,” Nussman said of keeping morale high. “After the Centerville loss you get kind of down but you’re still in it. After the Wayne loss, most of us were really down. … You don’t want to be the class that doesn’t make it. We don’t want to miss out. This is very satisfying.”
The Indians, meanwhile, missed out on a chance to clinch a home game next week. Piqua could travel to Toledo Central Catholic in a rematch of last year’s opening round. Piqua won 33-14.
“You’re happy to be in the playoffs period,” Piqua coach Bill Nees of going on the road. “You’re happy to go where ever (the OHSAA) tells you to go. We played five away games last year and it worked out pretty well for us.”