VANDALIA – In past decades, the Northmont and Butler football rivalry may have crackled, but since the resumption of the game three years ago, the Thunderbolts have had the upper hand. That trend continued on Thursday night at Butler’s Memorial Stadium as the Thunderbolts (4-0) handed the Aviators (2-2) another thrashing in a 43-16 win.
For the third consecutive season the game was featured on Fox 45’s Thursday Night Lights and for the third straight time Northmont used its size and athleticism to dominate Butler. In the three game stretch, the ‘Bolts have outscored the Aviators 126-29.
Thursday night’s contest couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for the Aviators. After taking the opening kickoff at their own 29-yard line, the Aviators went backwards thanks to multiple penalties and faced a fourth down and 32 yards to go at their own 5-yard line. Trying to punt, Butler’s Andrew Boren took a high snap off his hands and was tackled for a safety and a 2-0 ‘Bolt lead.
“That’s why in a big game I hate taking the ball first,” said Butler head coach John Puckett. “I’d rather have a series, get everyone’s nerves calmed down, and give the other team a chance to make a mistake. Our special teams killed us tonight, and, to be honest, have been our Achilles heal all season long.
On the ensuing kickoff, Northmont took over at their own 42-yard line and needed just three plays as Miles Johnson connected with Jazz Keys on three consecutive passes, including a 6-yard touchdown pass with 8:30 to play in the first quarter for a 9-0 lead.
Johnson’s arm was accurate and deadly as he completed 12-of-17 passes for 322 yards and five touchdowns. Keys caught eight passes for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Justin Golson caught just two turned both of them into scores and 101 yards of receiving.
“Our offense is so explosive with our skill players,” said Northmont head coach Tony Broering. “Jazz Keys, Justin Golson, Danny (Lewis) they can just go and Miles (Johnson) puts the ball on the money. When they are clicking like that…”
Northmont’s defense was dominant most of the night and forced Butler to punt. The Bolt’s wasted no time and took just three plays to take a 16-0 lead on a 70-yard pass from Johnson to Danny Lewis.
“The defense had a really good week of practice and we got a couple of kids back off of injuries,” Broering said. “That helped us too. We felt like we could control the line of scrimmage, especially with our defensive front four. They are all very skilled, returning starters, and big, strong kids.”
Northmont took advantage of the absence of Butler’s deep-threat receiver Bryant Johnson who broke his collarbone in Week 3 versus Wilmington.
“When he’s in the huddle everyone is more confident – the quarterback, the play caller – he stretches the field and creates opportunities for the run game,” said Puckett.
The Aviators got back in the game midway through the second quarter after a 12 play, 73-yard drive was capped off by a 17-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mason Motter that cut the score to 16-6 after Butler’s 2-point conversion failed.
Unfortunately for the Aviators, the last seven minutes of the half belonged to Northmont.
Johnson connected with Keys on a botched play from 47-yards out with just under five minutes remaining in the half to up the lead to 23-6. Johnson scored from a yard out two minutes later following a blocked punt to extend the lead and then, after taking over on their own 21-yard line, the Thunderbolts went 79 yards in just five plays to take a 36-6 lead at the half on a 25-yard pass from Johnson to Justin Golson with just five seconds left in the half.
“They didn’t line up and overpower us because until late in the third quarter they didn’t have a run over five yards,” said Puckett. “But we couldn’t defend on third and long even if our life depended on it. It was amazing how poorly we played the pass.”
Northmont extended the lead to 43-6 late in the third quarter on a 76-yard pitch and catch from Johnson to Golson down the right sideline.
Butler scored 10 points in the fourth period on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Motter to Blake Ross with 8:47 left and a 29-yard field goal by Andrew Boren with 3:49 to play.
Northmont will travel to Wayne (3-0 pending Friday’s game) while Butler will host Xenia (2-1) in Week 5.
A season ago, the Warriors came to Northmont and pulled out a double overtime win 38-35.
“This is what we hoped for, what we targeted all year, was to be undefeated heading into the Wayne game,” said Broering. “We can do something special and do some big things. They are very talented.”
Puckett said the loss will make his Aviators look inward.
“The only way we get better from this is to be honest with ourselves,” said Puckett. “This past week we had a little ‘I’ve arrived’ attitude creeping in. Little things lead to big things. We had 12 penalties tonight, three in a row to open the game, and 13 last week. That hidden yardage kills you. As you try to build a culture and standard and have expectations you are going to have ups and downs. These kids are great though – I love the way they competed in the second half. They could easily have quit.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.