Jazz Keys had the best close-up view for every Northmont football game last season, and that was the problem.
One of several touted and speedy underclass receivers, he sat out his entire sophomore season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. That made him the state’s most talented ball boy.
“Sitting out after surgery and then being able to do my thing, this means a lot,” said Keys, now a junior who had a career effort in a 43-16 Week 4 defeat of host Butler on Thursday night. “It was tough. Just knowing I could be doing that last year on a great team.”
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Northmont bunched a quick safety and touchdown in the opening four minutes and Keys and Justin Golson each had a pair of scoring catches from Miles Johnson. The win improves Northmont, the area’s top-ranked Division I team, to 4-0 and sets up a Week 5 showdown at Wayne. The Warriors (2-1) were scheduled to play at unbeaten Miamisburg (3-0) on Friday.
Northmont owned a decisive size advantage on the lines and Butler had no answer for the Thunderbolts’ passing game. Northmont led 36-6 at halftime and a running clock was used most of the second half.
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Johnson, a senior, completed just 12 of 17 passes but accounted for 322 yards and five touchdowns. Keys had a career-high eight catches for 138 yards.
Golson had a 25-yard touchdown catch to complete first-half scoring. The junior also burned the Aviators for a 76-yard TD catch and mostly run late in the third quarter. Those were his only catches for 101 yards receiving.
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Northmont senior Danny Lewis also scored on a 70-yard pass from Johnson. Yet another quick-strike receiver, senior Drake Hickman, should return to the Thunderbolts lineup next week after recovering from an ankle sprain.
“We couldn’t defend a 3rd-and-long if our life depended on it,” said John Puckett, in his first season as the Aviators coach. “Their front four is so good. They’re so athletic for as big as they are and they’re long.”
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Although he played sparingly, Northmont was bolstered by the return of senior defensive end Gabe Newburg following a high ankle sprain in a Week 2 defeat of Fairmont. Also back in the lineup was senior linebacker Jestin Jacobs after a two-game absence.
“We’re so explosive, the skill players,” Northmont coach Tony Broering said. “They can go and Miles put the ball right on the money.”
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Butler (2-2) had its two-game win streak snapped. Senior QB Mason Motter completed 12 passes for 99 yards. He scored on a 17-yard run and also hit Blake Ross with a 26-yard TD strike.
However, the Aviators were without standout senior receiver Bryant Johnson, who’s recovering from a fractured collar bone. He ranked No. 4 among Greater Western Ohio Conference receivers with 12 catches for 273 yards (22.8) after three games.
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Also a basketball standout, Johnson said he could return to football toward the end of the regular season and should be fully healed for basketball.
It’s the first time Northmont is 4-0 since the 2006 season. It also was Northmont’s third straight GWOC crossover defeat of Butler since the close rivals resumed this series in 2015. Just 11 miles apart and separated by the Englewood dam, Butler is headed to the revised Miami Valley League next season and Northmont will stay in the GWOC.
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“We felt like we could control the line of scrimmage, especially our defensive front four,” Broering said. “They’re big, strong kids and they’re all returning starters. The defense was intense, as they have been all year. I’m very proud of them.”