SPARTA — Northmor may have gotten the big plays and won the turnover battle, but Highland’s steady, physical play won out in the end.
The Scots rushed 74 times for 491 yards to smash the Golden Knights, 38-20, and grab the Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference title all to themselves.
“I thought the kids played really hard tonight,” said Highland coach Chad Carpenter. “It’s wasn’t the prettiest of things, but we kept fighting and were able to pull it out.”
It didn’t look like it was going to be much of a fight early, as Highland (9-1 overall, 7-0 KMAC) cruised right down the field on its first two drives. Tate Tobin scored on a 2-yard run, then after a three-and-out by the defense, Brody Matthews ran it in from 31 yards out to make the score 16-0 Highland.
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“They (Highland) are a good football team,” said Northmor coach Scott Armrose. “We were just outmatched at the point of attack.”
A costly penalty late in a drive cost the Scots another touchdown and gave life to the Knights (9-1, 6-1). Conor Becker, who was bottled up most of the night by the Scots’ defense, broke loose on a 67-yard run with Highland’s Jarin Vasquez saving a possible touchdown. The Knights didn’t score on that drive, but the play renewed their confidence.
Northmor finally dented the scoreboard with a 54-yard pass from Hunter Mariotti to Blake Miller. That sent the Knights into the locker room with momentum.
Becker made sure the momentum continued, marching on a two-play scoring drive of his own to open the third quarter. The senior running back brook loose for 22 yards on the first play, then went for 32 yards on the next to score. The two-point conversion failed, though, keeping the Scots in the lead.
That’s when the Scots went back to work.
They pounded the Knights with their running game, scoring on two long drives to open the game back up.
“That’s what they do. We’d get them into third and short or fourth and short and they would convert. It was very frustrating,” Armrose said. “I don’t know how many times they were able to grind it out. They were just more physical than us up front.”
Highland quarterback Ian Taylor faked out everyone in the stadium on a fourth-down play from the 1-yard line, scoring on a bootleg that put the Scots up, 22-14.
Then, Brock Veley ran it in from 11 yards out to blow it open.
Northmor did get another big score when Mariotti and Miller hooked up on an 81-yard touchdown pass. But, another fourth-down conversion by the Scots led to Tobin’s final score and the victory.
“The kids just kept fighting,” Carpenter said. “We had a lot to play for. This is a good feeling (winning the KMAC). It’s one of the goals we’ve preached about since the start of the year.”
The Scots had three players rush for over 100 yards on the night. Matthews led the team with 188 yards on 24 carries, while Jack Weaver had 152 yards on 17 totes. Tobin rushed for 102 yards on 21 carries, scoring two touchdowns and four two-point conversions. Veley added 44 yards and a score.
Northmor got 147 yards on 19 carries from Becker. Miller caught three passes for 129 yards and the two scores. Mariotti completed just 4 of 10 passes, but they went for 131 yards and two TDs.
“We just weren’t able to do what we normally do consistently because of what they (Highland) did defensively,” Armrose said. “They had a good plan and were able to stop Conor. … They did a nice job covering our receivers.”
Both teams clinched a spot in the state playoffs, which begin next Friday. The playoff pairings will be announced Sunday afternoon.