Wayne, shut out since Jussiah Williams-West’s 82-yard kickoff return to open the second half, had time to drive for the winning score. But Tyrell Lewis’ pass bounced off the hands of the high-reaching Jamier Averette-Brown and into the arms of Cortner for an interception.
The Thunderbolts, tough-luck losers the first three weeks of the Greater Western Ohio Conference schedule, were able to run out the clock for a 26-24 victory. Also for Cortner and many of his teammates, it was two years of wanting another chance where in 2021 the T-Bolts lost 49-18.
“We lost by one play every week, just one play, one play, one play, and to come out and be down a lot and keep our heads up, not get mad at each other, not fight each other, to come out and play with heart, it means a lot,” Cortner said. “Especially when it’s my first time winning at Wayne.”
Northmont coach Tony Broering was happy that Cortner made big plays at the end and that his team rebounded from a 17-7 halftime deficit with 280 yards of offense after a first half of only 56.
“It was a great game and both teams played really hard,” he said. “My guys the last three weeks played their hearts out and came up short. So I try to tell them just stick with me and stick with it. They did it. So I’m really, really proud of them.”
Northmont (4-3, 1-3 GWOC) did itself a big favor in the Division II, Region 8 playoff standings. The T-Bolts will be third or fourth by the end of the weekend. Wayne (5-2, 3-1) slipped to No. 8 in Division I, Region 2.
“We’ve just got to take advantage of opportunities,” Wayne coach Roosevelt Mukes said.
Mukes wouldn’t elaborate on the opportunities missed, but two stand out in the second half. The Warriors drove from their 10-yard line to a first-and-goal at the 7. That’s when 6-foot-5 junior defensive end Cedric Works turned the game around for Northmont. He rushed hard from the left end and intercepted Lewis’ pass to the flat.
Instead of Wayne going up 31-7, Northmont drove and cut the Warriors’ lead to 24-14 on Cortner’s 15-yard screen pass to Grant, who also rushed for 113 yards on 21 carries. With the momentum, the T-Bolts later drove 99 yards and scored on Cortner’s 10-yard pass to Dalin Wilkins to cut Wayne’s lead to 24-20 with 10:15 to play.
“He changed the whole game, and that’s what I told him at the end,” Northmont coach Tony Broering said of Works. “He is a game changer.”
Wayne also had Northmont stopped and the clock stopped on a fourth-down incompletion at the Wayne 25 with 1:23 to play. But Lewis didn’t get a chance at a possible winning drive because Wayne was penalized for roughing the passer. Northmont kept the ball and ran out the clock.
Flags, long explanations to coaches and long huddles by the officials were a big part of the game. Each team had its ups and downs and combined for 23 penalties and 236 penalty yards.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on and it’s hard to keep up with it,” Broering said. “And I’ve been in this since 1991. It’s always been like this, and it always comes down like that.”