CLAYTON — The Wayne Warriors (3-1) travel to Clayton this Friday to take on the Northmont Thunderbolts (3-1) at Good Samaritan Stadium.
Northmont comes into this game fresh off of a 48-13 shellacking of an over matched Vandalia Butler Aviators team at home. Butler had a rough time trying to make plays because Northmont’s stout defense up front and harassing receivers in the secondary. On offense Northmont kept Butler off balanced all night by doing a good job of staying unpredictable by mixing the run and short passes. Then the Thunderbolts would throw in play action and hit one of its speedy receivers deep.
Wayne battled the Miamisburg Vikings for a little over three quarters, until it pulled away 56-28. Miamisburg used a lot of pressure up front to disrupt the Wayne running game and put pressure on Rashad McKee. Wayne will most likely see the same thing from Northmont, except the Thunderbolts may have a better secondary than Miamisburg. This could mean that McKee would have to hold the ball longer, giving the defensive line time to get to him.
When Northmont has the ball
The Thunderbolts have the number one passer in the GWOC in junior and transfer from Fairmont High School, Miles Johnson. Miles has benefited well from his transfer from a run oriented offense at Fairmont to being surrounded by play making receivers at Northmont. Johnson has completed 60 percent of his passes and amassed 1,026 yards with 14 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. Though Johnson completes 60 percent of his passes, he has had at least one interception each game.
Johnson has a number of weapons at his disposal and he uses them frequently. Senior Donavin Wallace has been targeted the most with 26 catches, but his number one scoring threat is Jabari Perkins. Jabari Perkins has 25 catches for 336 yards which puts him at No. 6 in the GWOC behind L’Christian Smith. Perkins also has 7 touchdowns which makes him Northmont’s leading scorer.
While Northmont showcases its senior wide receivers, Wayne cannot over look another deep threat Northmont has in Drake Hickman. When teams give too much attention to Jabari Perkins, Hickman can take the top off of your defense. Hickman has 9 catches for 201 yards and 4 of them have gone for a touchdown. His longest touchdown was 85 yards and he averages 22 yards per catch. Make no mistake, Northmont can stretch the field, which is something Wayne has struggles with a times.
Senior Devin Kenerly lines up at running back in the Northmont backfield; he has rushed for 483 yards on 70 carries. To put that into perspective, Kenerly gets about 36 percent of the touches on offense. Northmont is more pass oriented but Wayne can’t forget about Kenerly.
This game will be a challenge for the Wayne secondary, but if GWOC sack leader Reigelsperger and the Wayne front seven can get some pressure on Johnson, he has been prone to make mistakes. Wayne will have to make sure not to let Northmont’s receivers get into space, because they have the ability to take it to the house.
When Wayne has the ball
Junior quarterback Rashad McKee has grown immensely and his resume is impressive. Last year he came in as a sophomore and quarterbacked the Warriors deep into the playoffs. Last year he wasn’t asked to do much, but what he was asked to do he did well. This year is a different story; this has become McKee’s team. Rashad has become not only one of Wayne’s best playmakers, but a leader as well. His demeanor and playmaking abilities remind me of Russell Wilson.
McKee is second in passing in the GWOC behind Miles Johnson, but he has only thrown one interception in 110 attempts. He had 6 passing touchdowns, but he has 4 on the ground. He is Wayne’s leading scorer and at this point, probably the team’s MVP.
Last week McKee showed that he can get the ball to his playmakers down field. Junior receiver Steven Victoria had a monster game last week. Victoria scorched the Miamisburg defense to the tune of six catches for a gaudy 210 yards receiving, a couple of which were over 50 yards. McKee has been able to get the ball to L’Christian Smith when he needs a big play, even when the coverage is rolled his way. Last week Austin Mullins caught a deep ball in stride and outran the Miamisburg defense for an 87 yard score, so the ball is being spread around and the receivers are making splash plays.
Wayne can move the ball through the air against Northmont, so it is going to have opportunities against Northmont’s defense. Northmont’s standout defensive player may be junior defensive back Jestin Jacobs. Jacobs has 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and he’s third on the team in tackles. However, linebacker play is key for Northmont’s defense. Patrolling the middle are senior linebackers Logan Jewsikow and Jason Zile, who are first and second respectively, in tackles on the team.
Wayne has been a block or two from breaking off a kickoff return for a touchdown. It usually only gets one chance a game, because once Justin Harris returns one they kick away from him.
The Wayne kicking game is in great shape. Garrett Russell gets better every week. His kickoffs are reaching the end zone now. In a game which the opponent has a potent return game, touchbacks can save scores.
Northmont spreads its kick and punt return duties out over a few players. It seems the Thunderbolts are still in a state of flux over who they will use full time. Make no mistake though, Northmont has some fast players that can return punts. While Jabari Perkins is used most in the kicking game, Drake Hickman has returned one kick and it was a touchdown the first week. He hasn’t returned any kicks since then, but that’s not saying Wayne won’t see him this week.
This should be a good game to watch. Both offenses are capable of putting up big numbers. The defense that does a better job of slowing the other offense will have the upper hand. A matchup to watch is Northmont’s speedy receivers against Wayne’s secondary. On the other side, it will be Rashad McKee’s playmaking ability and his receivers’ big play ability downfield against the Northmont safeties. It will also be interesting to see if Wayne’s running game has turned the corner.
The last two games between Wayne and Northmont have been played at Wayne. The last time Wayne lost to Northmont was a rain soaked 14-11 loss at Northmont in 2012. The score was 0-0 at the half in that game and the opening score was a blocked punt covered in the end zone by Northmont. Last year Wayne started out sluggish, turning the ball over early and falling behind 20-12 by mid second quarter. Wayne would rebound and outscore Northmont 46-6 the rest of the way on the way to a 58-26 rout.
Reach Robert Williamson II by email: RobertWilliamsonII@hotmail.com