CLAYTON — Hilliard Darby used a punishing ground game to grind out a 21-7 come from behind victory Friday over Northmont.
The two teams battled to a scoreless first quarter but Northmont cracked the scoreboard first on a 2 yard run by Avery Miliner. Nick Winchester added the extra-point to give Northmont the lead, 7-0. The scoring drive was set up by a fumble by Darby quarterback Nick Powers with Dominic Wilson recovering the loose ball at the Northmont 48 yard line. The Thunderbolts engineered a seven play, 52 yard drive to take the lead.
The Panthers answered with a 15 play, 80 yard drive capped by a 1 yard run by Powers and a Blake Sawicki kick to tie the game 7-7 with 5:35 remaining in the first half.
The Panthers’ running game would prove to be the difference. Darby amassed 296 yards on the ground on 59 plays to control the clock. Darby held the advantage in time of possession 30:43 to 17:17.
Northmont kicked off to open the second half and forced Darby to punt, but the Thunderbolts coughed the ball up on a fumble with the Panthers taking over at Northmont’s 46 yard line. Darby engineered a 10 play, 46 yard drive capped by a 1 yard touchdown run by Richie Palsgrove, who got flipped into the end zone on the play by an almost great tackle. Sawicki’s kick put Darby up 14-7 with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter.
Northmont couldn’t sustain a drive on its next possession and Darby capitalized by engineering another clock killing drive. Northmont’s punt sailed into the end zone and the Panthers marched 80 yards in 14 plays to take 7 minutes and nine seconds off the clock to score the final touchdown of the game. Running back Kyle Colvin scored on a three yard run with 6:56 remaining to put Hilliard Darby up 21-7.
Northmont had a chance to cut in the lead when Jabari Perkins returned the kickoff 37 yards to the Thunderbolts’ 47 yard line to set up the Bolts with great field position. Timmons threw a deep pass that just missed being complete on first down. On fourth down and 12 the Darby defense sacked Timmons to take over on downs. Darby drove to Northmont’s 4 yard line as time expired to walk away with the 21-7 win.
Overall, the Thunderbolts played extremely well against the state’s top ranked Division II school.
“I told the team, Hilliard Darby is a very, very good football program, not just a great team, but a great program,” said Northmont Coach Tony Broering. “They have been in the playoffs the last three or four years and this was a tough, hard fought game. We made a mistake in the third quarter that you can’t make against a good team. You open the door for them and they are just going to pound it into the end zone.”
When asked if Darby’s attack featuring a slew of strong runners caught his team off guard, Broering stated, “It wasn’t so much that they caught us off guard, they are just so good at what they do. We prepped and prepped and prepped and our defensive staff is outstanding. They did a great job and had the kids ready for everything that they could throw at us. The thing is, Nick Powers, their quarterback is very good and they have a couple other really, really good football players. That’s why I went out of my way to go over and talk to their team and tell them how good they are. They might beat Hilliard Davidson next Friday. They could run the table this year.”
Despite the loss, Broering was happy with how his team performed against such a formidable opponent.
“I am very proud of the boys,” Broering said. “Like I told them all summer, I want to win but the scoreboard is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that we represent the school and the community and their families and Northmont High School the right way, and that’s what they did tonight. They played hard, they played clean, they played their hearts out and I am proud of them.”
Next Friday the Thunderbolts will face another tough opponent when they host Fairfield, another big tough team.
11:49 Northmont: Avery Miliner 2 yard run for touchdown. Nick Winchester kick. 7-0
5:35 Darby: Nick Powers 1 yard run. Blake Sawicki kick. 7-7
5:08 Darby Richie Palsgrove 1 yard run. Blake Sawicki kick. 14-7
6:56 Darby Kyle Colvin3 yard run. Blake Sawicki kick. 21-7
Avery Miliner (5) swings to the left side after taking the hand off from quarterback Chris Timmons.
Northmont quarterback Chris Timmons keeps the ball and picks up a first down.
Northmont’s Nick Boyd (84) swings to the left and comes up just short of the goal line. The next play, Northmont scores to take the lead in the second quarter.
Hilliard Darby quarterback Nick Powers dives over the Northmont defensive line for the touchdown.
The student cheering section dressed in black for the season opening game against Hilliard Darby at Good Samaritan Stadium.
Reach Ron Nunnari at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@civitasmedia.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind