CLAYTON — Northmont scored a 32-20 victory Friday over Springboro to win its first National West division game of the season while handing the Panthers their first division loss to knot the division into a 4-way tie.
With the victory the Thunderbolts improved to 4-5 overall while the Panthers fell to 6-3. Lebanon and Miamisburg are both 7-2 overall but all four teams are tied in division play with matching 1-1 records. That means the division title is up for grabs and could be determined by what transpires next Friday night. Northmont will travel to Miamisburg in hopes of knocking off the Vikings while Springboro will square-off with Lebanon.
The Thunderbolts are also on the bubble as far as earning a potential trip to the playoffs based on the strength of the difficult schedule they have played this season. If Northmont defeats Miamisburg and a complicated series of other outcomes reach fruition, the Thunderbolts could make it to postseason play.
During the victory Northmont kicker Nick Winchester established a new school record for the longest field goal. With 2:36 remaining in the first quarter Winchester kicked a 50 yard field goal that cleared the uprights with plenty of room to spare to give the Thunderbolts a 10-7 lead. His kick shatters the old record of 47 yards set in 2003 by Andy Hildreth against Chaminade-Julienne.
Winchester was not the only hero of the game. Running back Devin Kenerly carried the ball 33 times for 228 yards and four touchdowns. On his first carry of the game Kenerly gained 11 yards to give Northmont a first down at its own 22. On the next play Kenerly broke loose and romped 78 yards for a touchdown 47 seconds into the game. Winchester’s extra-point staked Northmont to an 7-0 lead.
Perhaps the unsung hero of the game was quarterback Brenden Reck. He completed 10 of 19 pass attempts for 126 yards, but what you didn’t see was a few key things that happened behind the scenes. Before the game Reck approached Coach Tony Broering and asked to surrender his team captain status to another player who has worked hard all season but hasn’t seen much playing time. He also convinced Broering that he could get a first down on two key fourth down situations.
On the first play of the fourth quarter Northmont was faced with a fourth down and less than a yard at its own 30. Reck convinced Broering he could pick up the first down on a quarterback keeper and did just that. Four plays later he convinced Broering he could get another first down on fourth and short at the 40 and again came through in the clutch.
“Brenden Reck is a winner,” Broering said. “Plain and simple, when it comes down to it, he is a winner. Fourth and one and he says, ‘Hey coach, I’ll get it.’ Fourth and one again, ‘Hey coach, I’ll get it.’ On one play down there towards the end of the game, we were going heavy right and running the ISO with Kenerly and Reck came over to the sideline and said, ‘Coach let me change it.’ We changed the play and we scored a touchdown.”
Fighting back tears Broering continued to praise his senior quarterback.
“He is a really great football player. He is tough. All the scrambles he had tonight… he is an amazing kid. This is the kind of kid he is. (long pause) He came to me today and asked if he could give up his spot as a captain to one of the other seniors who never gets to play and who tries hard and practices hard. That’s the kind of kid he is. I am very proud of him. He is a great kid.”
On the same drive that Reck picked up the two key first downs that began late in the third quarter and extended into the fourth Kenerly carried the ball 15 times out of 20 plays to score a three yard touchdown to give Northmont a 25-20 lead. That drive consumed nine minutes and 19 seconds and effectively wore out the Panthers’ defense.
“I can’t say enough about Devin. What an amazing game he had,” Broering praised. “He kept saying, ‘I can do it, I can do it.’ We kept giving it to him and on that drive that gave us the lead he was unstoppable.”
Springboro was not without some big highlights of its own. Kicker Charlie Kuhbander booted two long field goals of his own. One was from 49 yards to cut Northmont’s lead to 16-10 and the other came from 47 yards out to give the Panthers a 20-17 lead with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
“They have a really good kicker, but I think we have the best kicker,” Broering said. “Yesterday when we were practicing in bad weather conditions we promised the team and Nick especially that if we were going with the wind we would try to go for a field goal anywhere on the other side of the field from the 40 on. It was just so odd that it was from 50 yards out. We tried it and Nick did a great job. What people don’t understand is that when you are trying to execute that play a lot of things have go into it to make it work. The snap has to be right and the hold on that particular kick was amazing. The snap was high and our holder Logan Zerkle did great job for me tonight. He came in and not only did a great job on that hold, but he also came in when Kameron Mathis got hurt and played halfback and knew all of his plays. Later on when he got cramped up Drake Hickman came in for the last extra-point hold and did a great job.”
After taking an early lead on Kenerly’s long run and Winchester’s record setting field goal, Springboro answered with an 11 play, 72 yard drive capped by a one yard run by Liam Foley (13 carries, 62 yards). Kuhbander’s kick tied it 7-7. Winchester’s 50 yard field goal put Northmont up 10-7 and early in the second quarter Kenerly scored on a six yard run to put the Thunderbolts up 16-7. With 2:03 left in the half Kuhbander kicked a 49 yard field goal to make it 16-10. Winchester kicked a 29 yard field goal to put Northmont up 19-10 at half time.
Early in the third quarter Springboro quarterback Brody Mahle scored on a 23 yard run and Kuhbander’s kick cut the deficit to19-17. With 1:25 remaining in the third quarter Kuhbander kicked a 47 yard field goal to give the Panthers a 20-19 lead. With 2:41 remaining in the game Kenerly scored from four yards out to put Northmont back on top 25-20. On Springboro’s first play from scrimmage after the touchdown Garrett McGough intercepted a pass to give Northmont a first down at Springboro’s 27. Three plays later Kenerly scored on a seven yard run while dragging five or six defenders into the end zone. Winchester’s kick made the final tally 32-20 in Northmont’s favor.
Devin Kenerly busts loose for a big gain against Springboro.
Brenden Reck looks for an open receiver along the sideline during Northmont’s 32-20 win over Springboro.
Chuck Saul and Danny Lewis (8) bring down Panthers’ quarterback Brody Mahle.
Dominic Wilson looks for an opening in the Springboro defense.
Linebacker Jason Zile slams into Springboro quarterback Body Mahle as he tries to fire a pass.
Reach Ron Nunnari at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@civitasmedia.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind