Northmont improved to 6-0 and won the GWOC outright.
Coach Tony Broering’s Thunderbolts have made a habit of exciting finishes, having rallied to beat Springboro 40-36 in the opener, coming back from 21 points down to top Springfield 38-35 in overtime two weeks ago and erasing a 14-point third quarter deficit last week in a 40-34 overtime win against Miamisburg last week.
“I think the last few weeks we’ve struggled because teams play us different every week," Broering said. "They don’t play us the same they have played all season, so it takes us a series or two to adjust. But the great thing about our kids is they never quit. They never stop believing in each other or believing in themselves. That’s the key to it. We come in at halftime down and feel like we’re wining because we know we’re gonna do that. We’re going to keep fighting.”
This time they trailed by as many as 17.
The Warriors scored first on a 3-yard run by Cam Fancher, who kept the ball on a zone read and raced in behind left tackle Aamil Wagner late in the first quarter.
Wayne struck again moments later when Adam Trick blocked a Northmont punt and teammate Antonio O’Berry recovered it for a touchdown.
The Thunderbolts responded with a long drive capped by Rice’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Rod Moore with 6:29 on the clock.
Wayne drove inside the Northmont 10-yard line on its next two possessions but turned the ball over on downs the first time and had to settle for Justin Doan’s 32-yard field goal the second time.
Fancher has a pair of touchdown run wiped out by penalty, one in each drive.
Northmont went three-and-out to start the third quarter, and Jah’rod Lankford’s punt return gave the Warriors good field position.
They took advantage, driving 49 yards for another touchdown.
This time Jordan Ward did the honors, powering in from the 2-yard line to extend Wayne’s lead to 17 points.
Northmont countered with a 37-yard touchdown connection between Rice and Allen, who beat double coverage to pull down a fade pass at the goal line.
The Thunderbolts wasted a golden opportunity to get within one score when they took over at the Wayne 12 after the Warriors went for it on 4th-and-1 and were stuffed.
Hindered by a third down holding penalty, Northmont ended up settling for a 47-yard field goal try that went wide left.
Doan added three more points with a 30-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 13 for Wayne.
Then it was Rice and Allen again, this time hooking up for a 25-yard score when Rice scrambled around long enough to find Allen open over the middle in the end zone with 6:44 left.
After turning the Warriors over on downs, Northmont got the ball back at the Wayne 43 with 2:21 left.
“The kids asked to go for it," Wayne coach Roosevelt Mukes said of the fourth down gambles. "We talk about believing in our kids and wanting them to compete, and that’s what they did. For it to come down to one or two plays, that’s part of it. You just learn from it and grow. I’m not going to apologize for believing in my players. People can second-guess all they want to, but it is what it is.”
Rice found Moore for 17 yards on first down and Allen for 16 more on the next play to give the Thunderbolts a first-and-goal, but they looked to be done when Rice threw incomplete on a fourth-and-20 set up by a holding penalty that negated a Rice touchdown run.
Wayne was called for roughing Rice, though, and Northmont got a new set of downs at the 10-yard line with 1:15 left.
They needed all of them, setting up Allen’s heroics.
“I knew the route I had to run," Allen said. "I had to execute it. I came out, ran my route and saw the ball come. I had to come back downhill for it, caught it and had to reach back across the end zone because I was a yard short I believe. I had to sacrifice to do what the team needed.”
He finished with 219 yards on 13 catches and three touchdowns. Rice completed 25 of 40 passes for 292 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception.
Fancher was 12-for-19 passing for 161 yards while also running for 72 yards and a touchdown. Ward had 114 yards on the ground for the Warriors, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.
Next week Northmont, the No. 2 seed in the Division I, Region 3 playoffs, will play host to Middletown.