At best, Northmont senior receiver Drake Hickman is the third or fourth option in the Thunderbolts’ high-end passing game. And he’s eager to please when the ball comes whistling his way.
“Coach (Tony Broering), all he preaches is do the right thing and your time is going to come,” said Hickman, who was one of many key Thunderbolts’ elements in a thorough 25-7 shutdown of previously unbeaten Springfield on Friday night.
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It was an impressive defensive turnaround for Northmont, which just two weeks earlier was torched in the second half of a 49-20 blowout loss at Wayne.
Northmont (6-1) likely will vault to the top of the Division I, Region 3 computer rankings because leader and defending D-I state champ Pickerington Central lost 31-30 to Lancaster.
“We talked all week that was a chance to get a lot of playoff points and maybe host a home playoff game, which we haven’t done here in a long time,” said a jubilant Broering. “I’m most happy for the community because I think we have a chance now – if we keep our head on straight – to host a (playoff) game.”
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The Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover matchup was similar to Northmont’s homecoming game last year when the T-Bolts upended then-undefeated Centerville.
Hickman opened the scoring with a 24-yard catch from quarterback Miles Johnson and added a nifty 60-yarder deep into the third quarter. Johnson was leveled as he threw, but the deep strike whizzed past the outstretched arms of two Springfield defenders and into Hickman’s grasp.
Northmont’s Jestin Jacobs’ 59-yard blast on the first play of the fourth quarter held up for the final score.
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Northmont also had a 28-yard field goal by Brandon Goodwin and a safety after Andrew Knick took down Springfield speedster Michael Stephens-Brown in the end zone. Knick also had a fumble recovery. A junior linebacker who also is the long snapper, Knick led the defense with 11 total tackles.
Springfield scored on Larry Stephens’ 66-yard pass from Ra’Heim Moss to pull the Wildcats within 12-7. It was the 12th TD by Springfield since Week 2 that has gone for 35 or more yards.
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Johnson completed 14 of 28 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Jazz Keys had five catches for 45 yards and Hickman four catches for a season-high 107 yards and those two scores.
Broering credited Jacobs’ switch from linebacker to end opposite Gabe Newburg as the key defensive difference-maker for Northmont. The Big Ten senior recruits - Newburg is verbally committed to the University of Michigan and Jacobs to Iowa - helped do what no team had done this season, stop Springfield’s quick-strike offense.
“That gave them a lot of problems,” said Broering.
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Springfield outscored its previous three opponents a combined 112-13 but was never in sync against Northmont. Springfield’s talented backfield of Tavion Smoot (73 yards rushing), Jeff Tolliver (9) and Moss (7) combined for just 89 yards rushing. Northmont’s defense was so dominant, Springfield had just one first down at halftime.
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“They made some plays and we didn’t,” Springfield coach Maurice Douglass said. “I’m pleased with the direction of the team. (Friday) was a speed bump.”
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