It wasn’t the start Northmont was looking for Friday night, but the Thunderbolts climbed back from an early deficit and pulled through in crunch time.
After falling behind 14-0 less than two minutes into the game without Fairfield running a play of offense, Northmont rallied to beat the Indians 31-24 on the road.
The Thunderbolts (1-1) scored the game-winner with 50 seconds left on a 9-yard keeper by quarterback Ryan Smith, and Justin Mitchell sealed it with an interception at Northmont’s 5-yard line on the final play.
“We dug ourselves a hole and after what we’ve been through the last couple weeks (losing in the preseason and the opener), we could have hung our heads, but our kids are resilient and they hung in there and did a great job,” Northmont coach Lance Schneider said.
Fairfield (1-1) had taken the early lead with help from special teams and defense. Cedric Woods ran back the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, and three plays later, Charles Adams picked off Smith and returned it 15 yards for a score.
Northmont got things going on its next drive and managed a field goal to slowly begin mounting its comeback. Soon enough, the Thunderbolts were down four with 3:08 left in the first quarter after Drew Hickman caught a 63-yard touchdown pass from Smith.
The Indians had to settle for a field goal on their only scoring opportunity of the half, making it 17-10 with 8:12 left in the second stanza. Northmont answered with an eight-play, 51-yard scoring drive capped by Smith’s 1-yard run to tie it three minutes later.
Fairfield had eight yards of total offense for the half compared to the Thunderbolts’ 192 yards as the teams went back to the locker room still tied.
“We got off to a quick start, but I think we got too complacent and let them physically handle us,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. “We physically didn’t step up to the challenge, and we had too many mistakes in every phase.”
Both teams added a third-quarter touchdown after misplays on punts. Northmont punted the first series, and the ball hit off a Fairfield player’s foot, allowing Hickman to return for a touchdown what otherwise would have been a muffed punt.
A similar play occurred at the other end of the field seven minutes later but this time it was called a muffed punt after Tellis Kennedy recovered for Fairfield and ran it into the end zone. The negated touchdown didn’t matter, as Hunter Krause immediately connected with TC Wells on a 26-yard scoring pass to knot the game at 24.
Northmont’s game-winning drive began with 2:26 left, near midfield, and was sparked by a 30-yard catch by Jonte’ Broski. Fairfield made it to the Thunderbolts’ 45-yard line but Krause’s pass was picked off with four seconds left.
“We run a no-huddle offense, so the last two minutes don’t bother us,” Schneider said. “We took advantage of the opportunity to get the ball to one of our best players (Broski) and were able to run Ryan Smith after he had been banged up.”
The Thunderbolts outgained the Indians 363-109 for the game with Avery Miliner rushing for 165 yards and Smith passing for 159 yards.
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