PATASKALA — The Northmor Golden Knights scored on the opening drive of the night, but were limited on offense for most of the rest of the game, falling to Beverly Fort Frye 41-23 in the playoffs Friday at Watkins Memorial.
Northmor received the opening kickoff and set up shop on its own 37-yard line. The Knights marched down the field, with a big pass to Gavin Ramos setting up the team at the Cadet 1. Three plays later and Conor Becker found the end zone. Hunter Mariotti completed a pass to Chris Bood for the conversion to put Northmor ahead 8-0 with 8:13 left in the opening stanza.
“We’ve had some fast starts this season like that,” Northmor coach Scott Armrose said. “We were able to get out there and we were all fired up and we go down and score. We were getting it done. Conor made some nice runs right there and Hunter threw some really nice passes. It was a really nice drive. We just weren’t able to consistently do that all night.”
The Cadets answered on their first possession of the game, moving the ball 61 yards in just under four minutes, ending in a 1-yard keeper by Tate Engle, but the conversion was stopped, keeping the Knights ahead 8-6 with 4:09 left in the first.
Both teams’ offenses stalled in the tail end of the first quarter and into the second. Ramos made another splash play in the second quarter with an interception, but the ensuing Northmor drive ended in a punt.
After the punt, Fort Frye had the ball on their own 22 and moved the ball down the field in 12 plays, milking almost six minutes off the clock. Tyler Fisher ended the drive in the end zone for six and he ran for the conversion to put the Cadets ahead 14-8 with 3:02 to go in the half, a score that the teams took into the locker room.
Fort Frye got the ball out of the break and after one first down, the Knights forced a fourth down. The Cadets lined up for a punt, but a busted play resulted in the punter, Isiah Jones, scrambling around and getting 15 yards to convert the fourth down in Fort Frye territory.
“In the second half that botched punt and the kid scrambles and gets the first down,” Armrose said. “That swung the momentum right there. We had them stopped to start the second half and we get the ball and go down and score right there it’s a whole different football game.”
Instead of the Knights scoring, it was the Cadets. After the punt, they continued on their drive and Engle called his own number again, scoring from 1 out to take a 20-8 lead with 4:42 left in the third.
Northmor was held to a three-and-out, giving the ball quickly back to Fort Frye. The Cadets put together another long drive, this one taking 10 plays and more than four minutes. Zane Greenleaf took the handoff and scored on a 13-yard run, setting the Cadets ahead 26-8 with 10:53 to go in the contest.
With time to make something happened, the Fort Frye defense again held the Knights to a three-and-out.
“It’s painful when you go three-and-out and then watch them drive 70 yards and take all that time off the clock,” Armrose said. “Then you finally get the ball back and you’re excited to go and you go three-and-out again. It’s a frustrating night.”
After the three-and-out, Fort Frye got a quick score. On the second play of their drive, Engle connected with Brian Adkins for a 58-yard strike. Engle ran for the two points to take a 34-8 lead with 9:07 to go.
The Knights did not go away quietly. Set up by a 51-yard pass from Mariotti to Becker, Mariotti had an 8-yard toss to Bood for the score. Becker converted the run to cut the lead to 34-16 with 7:34 to go. The onside kick attempt failed and the Cadets turned that in to more points, scoring on a 9-yarder from Fisher with 4:38 to go. In the waning moments, the teams traded fumbles, with a recovery by Bryce Downard setting up the Knights on the Cadet 19. On the first play of the drive, Mariotti found Cole Dille for a score. Nate Ruhl nailed the PAT to cut the lead to 41-23 with 2:47 to go, but the team ran out of time.
Northmor was limited to 69 yards on the ground, led by 64 yards on 16 carries from Becker.
“They were big and strong,” Armrose said of the Cadets’ ability to limit Becker. “It’s hard to do anything when you are outmatched up front and we were outmatched up front tonight.”
Mariotti was 12-of-19 for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Becker, with three catches, and Ramos, with four, both tallied 54 receiving yards apiece. Dille had 21 receiving yards and Blake Miller chipped in another 17.
Fort Frye dominated on the ground with 331 of the team’s 466 yards coming on the ground. Fisher notched 107 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, while Evan Schob toted the rock 22 times for 106 yards. Adkins had 65 rushing yards and Greenleaf added 22. Engle was 7-of-13 as the signal caller with 135 yards and a touchdown. Adkins had the big reception, while Fisher had two catches for 52 yards and Brady Schilling had two hauls for 13 yards.
Northmor’s season ended Friday, putting the Knights’ record on the year at 10-2. The Northmor roster had seven seniors who played in the black and gold for the final time.
“These seniors have, to be honest, taken a beating all the way up through,” Armrose said. “They had very limited success until the last two seasons and a lot of what we’ve accomplished is because of them. I’m really proud of those guys.”