GALION — Powered by three touchdowns from Conor Becker, the Northmor Golden Knights won their first playoff game in program history, adjusting to the muddy conditions to pull out the 28-16 win over the visition Chillicothe Southeastern Panthers.
“I’m definitely stoked to be able to pull this win out as a team,” Becker said. “It was awesome, especially in these conditions. We prepared for it, but we didn’t know it was going to be this bad.”
Becker got his first score of the night on the team’s second drive. He toted the rock four times on a drive that started near midfield and ended off the possession with a 6-yard scamper, putting the Knights ahead 6-0 with 6:09 to go in the first. A three-and-out by the Panthers gave Northmor the ball at their own 46. Five plays later, Becker made the visitors pay again, running 28 yards for another score, setting the edge at 12-0 with 1:46 left in the opening stanza.
“He’s a competitor and that’s what he does,” Northmor coach Scott Armrose said. “He competes and he’s got no quit in him, he’s got no half-speed in him and there is no condition that is going to stop Conor. He is just that kind of kid.”
On the ensuing drive, Chillicothe Southeastern marched down the field, but after 11 plays, their drive stalled and they had to punt it away. A Knight punt gave the Panthers the ball back and they put together another long drive. They milked nearly six minutes off the clock, moving the ball 51 yards and ending in a pass from Ike Diehl to Zack Proehl on a trick play for a 7-yard score. Southeastern completed the 2-point conversion to trim the lead to 14-8 late in the second quarter and that was the score at intermission.
“It was the same message we had before the game and we had all week,” Armrose said of what he told his players in the locker room. “Let’s do what we’ve done all year. Let’s go out and finish this thing. Let’s go out one play at a time and execute your job.”
The Panthers received the ball coming out of the break, but were unable to move much in the deteriorating field conditions. A punt set up a long drive for the Knights. They went 65 yards on 16 plays, ticking off more than eight minutes in the third quarter. Hunter Mariotti ended the drive on fourth down with a 12-yard pass to Blake Miller for the score. Becker converted the two-pointer to push the lead to 20-8 late in the third.
Northmor’s next drive ended in a punt, but there was a roughing the punter penalty that gave the ball back to the Knights. On the next play, the ball was fumbled and Diehl got his hands on it, setting up the Panthers at the Knight 39. Southeastern quarterback Lane Ruby took the fifth play of the next drive to the house and a successful conversion cut the lead to 20-16 with 6:14 to go.
Becker made his presence felt on special teams as well. On the next kickoff, which the Panthers tried an onsides attempt, Becker got his hands on the ball and raced up the sideline. He was pushed out of bounds and then was hit, resulting in 15 more yards being marched off because of the flag, setting up Northmor on the Panther 15.
“He is a ball magnet,” Armrose said. “The ball comes to him and when it does, he makes plays.”
Mariotti found Miller for another score, but it was called back due to a holding penalty. On the next play, Mariotti found Becker out of the backfield and he did the rest, scoring from 26 yards out. He also ran for the conversion, putting the home team ahead 28-16, a lead they did not let go of.
“I was just following my blockers and sometimes if it wasn’t there just try to bounce it for a little extra,” Becker said. “On that pass, I just turned around and caught some blockers and make my way up the field.”
Becker finished the night with 139 yards on 28 carries, which he paired with four catches for 42 yards with three total touchdowns. Mariotti was 8-of-12 for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Miller hauled in four receptions for 33 yards and a score.
The Knights limited the Panthers’ tricky offensive running attack to only 170 yards. Ruby was the top rusher with 99 yards on 24 carries and Mikey Nusser notched 43 yards on 12 totes.
“It helps we scrimmage Plymouth, we play Elgin and we play Lucas. This is the fourth time we’ve seen the double wing this year,” Armrose said. “We’ve seen that offense as much as we’ve seen any other offense this year. Our scout team is really good at it. It sounds silly, but what an advantage that gives us.”
Friday was Northmor’s first postseason win in only its second postseason appearance. The Knights march on to play Beverly Fort Frye, a team that handed Northmor a 6-0 defeat in the postseason last year, Friday at 7 p.m. The location is yet to be announced.
“We’re having so much fun and to be able to extend it one more week is very special,” Armrose said.