CLAYTON — Springboro entered Friday’s game vs. Northmont with a 4-4 record, but the Panthers are probably the best team with a 4-4 record in any conference.
Three of the Panthers four losses came to playoff bound teams like Mason (10-6), Gahanna Lincoln (17-14), Fairmont (24-12) and Miamisburg (21-7).
Springboro gave Northmont a tough fight and picked up big gains in key situations, but in the end the Thunderbolts walked away with a solid 38-21 victory to improve to 8-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play. The Thunderbolts will face division foe Miamisburg (7-2, 1-1) on the road in the final game of the regular season. If Northmont wins it will win the GWOC National West crown outright. If the Vikings pull off the upset they will share the division title with the Thunderbolts.
“I told the boys all week Springboro is very, very good and they have some really good football players and they are very well coached,” said Northmont Coach Tony Broering. “Ryan Wilhite does a great job with them. They are the best 4-4 team I’ve probably ever seen. I told the boys it was going to be a tough game. They have a big, strong offensive line, the biggest we’ve seen all year. They average across the front 6-feet, 3-inches and 276 pounds and they have good skill players. It is a big time Division I program.”
Against Springboro the Thunderbolts couldn’t get their offense rolling on their first possession and were forced to punt. The Panthers took over at their 38 and quarterback Landon Palmer hit Kameron Dickerson for a 12 yard pass completion and Brandon Thomas for 10 yards for a first down at Northmont’s 40. A few players later Palmer hit Willieon Yates for 11 yards and a first down at the 15. Gabe Newburg sacked Palmer and the Panthers attempted a 27 yard field goal that sailed wide right.
Northmont answered with a 12 play, 80 yard drive capped by a 4 yard touchdown run by Jestin Jacobs. Brandon Goodwin’s kick made it 7-0, but that lead wouldn’t hold very long.
On the kickoff Northmont got slapped with a 15 yard penalty to give the Panthers a first down at the Thunderbolts 48. Eleven plays later Timmy Kesedy scored on a 1 yard run and Owen Brown’s kick tied it 7-7.
Northmont quarterback Miles Johnson (17-27, 196 yards, 2 TDS, 1 INT) threw a 33 yard pass to Justin Golson for a first down at the Panthers’ 35 then hit Drake Hickman for a first down at the 20 and tossed a 20 yard touchdown pass to Jason Kohr to put Northmont up 14-7.
On the ensuing kickoff Eric Myers returned the kick from the six yard line and at midfield spun away from several Northmont tacklers to romp 94 yards for the tying touchdown with 5:36 remaining in the first half.
A minute and 24 seconds later Johnson tossed a 29 yard touchdown pass to Drake Hickman and Goodwin’s kick put Northmont back on top 21-14 with 4:12 left in the half, a score that would stand at halftime. On the drive Johnson also hit Jazz Keys with a pass on third and nine for a first down and a late hit tacked on an additional 15 yards.
Springboro received the second half kickoff which went into the end zone. The Panthers drove to the Northmont 47 where they were forced to punt. Northmont blocked the punt which traveled a short distance before sailing out of bounds. An illegal block in the back moved the ball back to Northmont’s 36. On the first play from scrimmage running back Michael Franklin took a handoff cut to his right and romped for a 64 yard touchdown at 9:22 of the third quarter. Goodwin’s kick boosted Northmont’s lead to 28-14.
With 5:28 left in the third quarter Goodwin kicked a 38 yard field goal to increase the lead to 31-14.
Springboro was far from out of it. On first down from the Panthers’ 20 Palmer threw a deep pass to Eric Myers, who made a diving catch at the Northmont 32. On fourth down and 12 Palmer threw to Myers in the back of the end zone. Myers caught the ball but was just out of the back of the end zone with Northmont taking over on downs at its own 24.
After Northmont was forced to punt the Panthers mounted an 11 play, 57 yard drive capped by a one yard run by Yates. Brown’s kick cut Northmont’s lead to 31-21 with 7:56 remaining in the fourth quarter.
With time waning the Panthers elected to go for a first down on fourth and 18. Gabe Newburg sacked Palmer at Springboro’s 43 where Northmont took over on downs. A screen pass to Justin Golson picked up a first down at the 28. Jestin Jacobs picked up 12 yards on second and seven for a first down at the Panthers’ 13. Three players later Jacobs scored on a 6 yard run with 1:58 remaining. Goodwin’s kick made the final tally 38-21.
“Our kids came out in the second half and really played well and kind of took over,” Broering said.
He is looking forward to the showdown with Miamisburg next week and credits Vikings’ Coach Steve Channell for helping him out when Broering first took over as the Thunderbolts coach.
“When we took over the program when these seniors were freshmen, coach Channell helped me a lot,” Broering noted. “He is a good friend of mine and I appreciate everything he has done for me over the years. He is a really good coach and they have a really good team. I saw them beat Wayne live, so I know how good they are and we have a lot of respect for them. I used to talk to him all the time about how great it was going to be play for the championship in week 10 against him, and that is what we are doing. Every year if you offer me the chance to play for the championship against Miamisburg, I will take it.”
Broering feels more than good about his players’ talent and how it will stack up against the Vikings.
“When you have the players we have on this team you always feel like you have a chance to win,” Broering added. “When you have Gabe Newburg, Miles Johnson and Jestin Jacobs and Bryan Heyward… you saw him tonight… he was killing people. We have so many good players in this senior class and a lot of them like Danny Lewis and Drake Hickman played as freshmen. The majority of them played as sophomores and a lot of them were starters, so you always feel like you have a good chance to beat anybody.”
Reach Ron Nunnari at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@aimmediamidwest.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind