VANDALIA — After not playing for nearly a decade, the anticipation of Thursday night’s showdown between Northmont and Butler was palpable. The atmosphere was electric, the stadium was full with an estimated crowd of around 5,000, and the television cameras were everywhere.
After all the hype, the actual game seemed anticlimactic, especially after the Northmont defense forced a Butler turnover on the first play from scrimmage and returned it for a touchdown just 16 seconds into the contest.
That play would set the tone as the Thunderbolts scored 21 points off of turnovers and blanked the Aviators 35-0.
The win lifts Northmont to 3-1 on the year while Butler dropped to 2-2.
Both coaches acknowledged the buzz in the air for the rare Thursday night game thanks to ABC 22/Fox 45’s Thursday Night Lights series.
“The atmosphere was awesome,” said Northmont’s Tony Broering. “When I came out and our whole stands were filled and their whole side was filled it was really exciting for me to be a part of it. I felt blessed and honored to be part of something so great. I felt pressure because I didn’t want to let the Northmont community down – they have been great to me and very supportive of the boys.”
Butler’s Nathan Hyatt agreed.
“The atmosphere was great and tells the kids a lot about how far they have come,” he said. “We had over 5,000 people here and it was a great opportunity.”
Northmont wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard. After a false start penalty moved Butler to their own 17 yard line before a play had been run, the Aviators fumbled behind the line of scrimmage. Thunderbolt Devin Kenerly scooped the ball up around the 12 yard line and rambled to the end zone and gave Northmont a quick lead just 16 seconds into the game.
Late in the first quarter Northmont made it 14-0 after a 30 yard touchdown pass from Brenden Reck to Jordon Meriner capped off an 84 yard scoring drive with 2:11 to play in the period.
Kenerly added another score with 5:11 to play in the first half on a 12 yard run to give the Bolts a 21-0 lead at intermission.
Northmont’s defense scored again in the second half as Gabe Newberg recovered a Butler fumble with 9:56 in the fourth quarter and returned it 32 yards for a 28-0 lead.
“My defense is really good,” Broering said. “They give us (offense) a really tough time in practice. They do some really nice things and they did that tonight. We got a good push up front and ran the ball pretty well. We made some mistakes and I wasn’t really happy at the half but that was more coaching than the kids. We cleaned that up pretty well at halftime.”
“We are really young in some spots right now due to injuries and they were able to take advantage of that,” said Butler’s Hyatt. “We played better on the defensive line in the second half but we had three critical turnovers that led to 21 points for them and that was obviously the difference.”
Reck connected with Jabari Perkins on a 12 yard scoring strike to set the final score.
“We talked to the boys all week about representing their school and their community the right way and they did that tonight,” Broering added. “I’m very proud of them. They worked really hard and deserve to celebrate and I’m happy for them.”
Northmont gained 282 yards of total offense to just 159 for Butler. The Aviators fumbled four times, losing three.
Northmont will return to action on Friday, Sept. 23 when they travel to Wayne. Butler will stay home and host Stebbins. Both games begin at 7 p.m.
“Stebbins is a good football team and they run the triple option,” said Hyatt. “We have got to get better at some things and keep this train moving forward.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.