CLAYTON — Northmont scored a 21-14 homecoming game victory Friday over Centerville, but not without the Elks putting up a battle that pushed the Thunderbolts to the limit.
Like a championship prize fight the underdog Thunderbolts came out with a chip on their shoulder with something to prove and scored some decisive punches early to put the undefeated Elks on their heels and gasping for air.
The Elks defense kept Northmont senior running back Devin Kenerly, the conference’s fifth leading rusher with 1,002 yards, bottled up most of the night, until it counted. Late in the fourth quarter Centerville had a first and goal at the Northmont seven yard line. A pass interference call gave the Elks the ball at the four yard line to make it fourth and goal but Danny Lewis and Jason Kohr broke up a Centerville pass in the left corner of the end zone to set the stage for a big play by Kenerly that iced the game.
Kenerly picked up six yards to move to the ball out to the 10 yard line and then carried it to the 13 to make it third down and one, but Kenerly got hurt on the play and had to leave the game for one play. Quarterback Miles Johnson kept the ball on third down and plowed forward for a first down by inches.
On the next play Kenerly exploded through the middle of the Centerville defense and romped 58 yards before getting tripped up from behind by senior Ross Garrett at the Elks’ 28 yard line with 58 seconds remaining. From there Northmont kneeled down on consecutive plays to run out the clock.
“Kenerly is a very good football player and he is great kid,” said Northmont Coach Tony Broering. “He is even a better person than he is a football player, which is amazing, because he is a great football player. He is tough.”
Up until his big run the Elks held Kenerly to 87 yards but the 58 yard romp bolstered Kenerly’s yardage to 145 on 21 carries.
Early in the game Northmont had Centerville on the ropes and appeared to be on the way to a lopsided victory.
On Centerville’s second possession of the game Northmont senior linebacker Logan Jewsikow picked off an Alec Grandin pass to give the Thunderbolts the ball at the Elks’ 26 yard line. Three plays later Kameron Mathis caught a 25 yard touchdown pass over the middle from Miles Johnson. Brandon Goodwin’s point after kick put the Thunderbolts up 7-0 with 4:25 remaining in the first quarter.
Johnson hit Mathis with an eight yard touchdown over the middle to cap a seven play, 65 yard drive with 6:33 remaining in the first half. Goodwin’s kick made it 14-0 and Thunderbolts were looking good.
Northmont forced the Elks to punt on their next possession and Donavin Wallace returned the kick 17 yards to the Thunderbolts’ 38 yard line. Kenerly gained 14 yards and 11 yards on consecutive runs and Centerville got called for encroachment penalties on three consecutive plays during the possession to give Northmont a first down and five at the Elks’ 19. On second and 15 Kenerly broke free for a 19 yard touchdown run to boost Northmont’s lead to 21-0 with 3:04 left in the first half.
At that point it appeared as though the Thunderbolts would runaway with the game, but undefeated teams are undefeated for a reason and Centerville wasn’t about to roll over and die.
The Elks responded with a six play, 68 yard drive capped by a five yard pass from Grandin to J.R. Melzer in the right side of the end zone with 32 seconds left in the first half. Brandon Walters’ kick cut the Thunderbolts lead to 21-7 at halftime.
On their second possession of the second half the Elks struck again. Centerville mounted an 11 play, 54 yard drive with Grandin tossing a three yard touchdown to Trey King with 3:31 left in the third quarter. Walters’ point after kick cut Northmont’s lead to 21-14.
The Elks kept Northmont pinned deep in its own territory throughout the second half. Fortunately the Thunderbolts defense would bend but never break to keep the Elks out of the end zone the remainder of the game. Northmont never got past its 37 yard line the remainder of the game.
When the chips were down Kenerly broke off the 58 yard run with time waning to preserve the victory that left Northmont’s players and coaches alike both physically and emotionally exhausted.
With the victory Northmont improved to 6-2 overall and could now qualify for the Division I playoffs if the Thunderbolts don’t suffer a letdown in the final two games against division opponents Springboro (4-4) and Miamisburg (4-4). With the loss Centerville fell to 7-1.
During the second half Northmont’s play calling became very conservative. It was a case of playing not to lose instead of playing to win. It caused Broering to jump on his offensive coach Shane Kincer at one point telling him in no uncertain terms to move the ball.
“I was just frustrated because our defense was playing so great but we kept putting them in dangerous situations by giving Centerville the ball near the 50 yard line like four straight times,” Broering said. “I was just saying, ‘Guys… get some first downs so we can catch our breath.’ The defense was having trouble getting themselves together because we kept giving them the ball at the 50. That’s all it was.”
In the heat of the moment it was more than that. Broering’s tirade was not without merit. The offense went to sleep and needed a swift kick. Great coaches demand results so a little fire and brimstone on the sidelines is what should take place. If it doesn’t, then a program is not competitive.
“The offensive staff does a great job,” Broering stated. “I brought Tom Adams in just for games like this. Shane (Kincer) has been with me since the beginning and does a great job and so does Mark Mays. One of the reasons Kenerly is so great is because of coach Mays. I love those guys. They know I am a little high-strung during the game. They were given a directive to give ball to Kenerly and that was what they did.”
Broering credited Centerville for a great performance.
“They were 7-0 for a reason. They are a very good football team,” Broering said. “I tell the kids all the time that you have to give respect to your opponent. We respect Centerville. They have a great program and a very good football team. They were stopping us and it is hard to stop us. They did a great job, so my hat is off to them. They did a good job in the second half.”
Broering praised his senior players for stepping up and sticking with the program.
“When I took over a couple of years ago it was tough,” he added. “You were here. We went through some tough times and the seniors stuck with it. It is a credit to them and I love them. I am very proud of them because they are winners and that is what I have been telling them for three years and now it is coming true.”
Centerville dominated time of possession 29:06 compared to 18:54 for Northmont. The Thunderbolts ran 54 plays for 290 total yards while the Elks ran 69 plays for 256 total yards. All that counts is points on the scoreboard.
Reach Ron Nunnari at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@AimMediaMidwest.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind