A can’t-miss standout in the making, Keaton Kesling was instead anchored in an unfamiliar backup role as a Northmont High School quarterback.
He bided his time in mop-up roles and even receiver as since-graduated QB Miles Johnson helped deliver two playoff seasons for the Thunderbolts.
“It was 100 percent worth the wait,” said Kesling, now a first-year senior starting QB. “I’m going to make the most of it playing for my team and the Northmont Thunderbolts community.”
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Kesling unloaded his second straight impressive air attack, tossing four touchdown passes in Northmont’s 28-14 defeat of visiting Fairmont in a Week 3 high school football Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover game on Friday night. The win was the second straight for Northmont (2-1). Youthful Fairmont (0-3) remains winless.
Kesling riddled the Firebirds by completing 15 of 18 passes for 245 yards and those four scores. Northmont junior receiver Marcus Allen, a transfer from Xenia, struck twice in the second half, the first on a 78-yard quickie that he out-raced Fairmont’s secondary on the sideline. In the fourth quarter he scored again, this time on a 42-yard strike from Kesling.
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Fairmont was determined to lean on Northmont leading receivers Jazz Keys (three catches for 16 yards) and Justin Golson (four catches, 20 yards, one touchdown). Instead, it was Allen (four catches, 171 yards, two scores) and De’Shawn Harewood (21-yard TD catch) who were difference-makers.
“They’re really good,” conceded Fairmont coach Dave Miller. “No. 1 (Golson) and No. 4 (Keys) and No. 3 (Allen), gez, who do you take away? We hadn’t seen anything close to that. Honestly, that’s as good as it gets.”
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It’s been all good for Northmont following a Week 1 loss to unbeaten and Division I, Region 2 leader Dublin Coffman, and Kesling is a developing reason why. He has passed for a combined 597 yards on just 36 completions (16.5 yards per pass) and eight touchdowns in defeats of Pickerington North and now Fairmont.
That’s the kind of stat-stuffer Northmont coach Tony Broering heard about when he joined the program 11 seasons ago.
“When I first came here the only two names I heard about from the (Northmont) Wee Bolts was (2017 grad) Donavin Wallace and wait until you see this Keaton Kesling,” Broering said. “I’m so proud of him. I told him in the fourth quarter what a special young man he is. That’s how you win in this league. You have to have those boys who are willing to put the work in and when they get their chance, excel.”
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Fairmont sophomore Tank Gant scored on a 5-yard run midway through the second quarter to pull the teams even at 7-all. Then Kesling and his multiple go-to receivers took over, scoring three straight unanswered touchdowns.
Fairmont couldn’t get enough of its run-heavy offense going to mount a comeback. Colin McLaughlin scored in the final two minutes on a 1-yard run for Fairmont. The Firebirds misfired on their only two passes.
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Gant, a powerful 6-foot-3, 215-pound hammer, has become Fairmont’s designated blaster. He had 34 carries for 110 yards in a Week 2 setback at Lakota East. He topped that with 36 carries for 144 yards and a score against Northmont.
Northmont has a Week 4 showdown at top-ranked Springfield (2-1) and Fairmont will host Trotwood-Madison (2-1).
“We’re all starting to click,” Kesling said. “Week 1 was just a little hic-up and now we’re starting to get going.”
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