High School Football: Northwestern rides fast start past Southeastern

Northwestern’s Jalen Minney breaks through the Southeastern defense for a first down during Friday’s season opener. Bill Lackey/Staff
Northwestern’s Jalen Minney breaks through the Southeastern defense for a first down during Friday’s season opener. Bill Lackey/Staff

The new kids made big plays for Northwestern on Friday night. And Shane Carter, the new coach, won his first game.

After a 1-9 season, a 47-22 opening victory over Southeastern was a new feeling for a lot of the returning players, too. They lost to the Trojans in last year’s opener.

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But junior Taveont Dennis-Miller put on a punt-returning display in the first half that fueled a 33-0 lead by the midpoint of the second quarter. Dennis-Miller returned four punts for 127 yards to set up three touchdowns.

“I love it,” Dennis-Miller said of one of his three jobs on the team. “My players blocked and I just ran. I’m feeling great.”

Dennis-Miller joined the team about three months ago. He played as a freshman at Springfield High, but sat out last year at Northwestern. His teammates urged him to play. He also carried the ball eight times for 36 yards and scored touchdowns on runs of one, five and four yards. And he played in a secondary that, along with a strong pass rush, frustrated Southeastern’s passing offense for most of the game.

Carter said Dennis-Miller can be one of the best players in the Central Buckeye Conference.

“He is an extreme talent, he is very raw,” Carter said. “He wants to be good, he has a lot of learning to do, and I’m excited about his future.”

Jalen Minney, a sophomore, is a wide receiver who caught three passes for 57 yards, including a highlight-reel catch of reaching over a defender. He also made two interceptions.

“If I can keep Jalen focused and to remain humble, he has great leadership ability,” Carter said. “I’ve coached a lot of DBs, he has next-level talent.”

Austin Stanley isn’t new to the team, but he had his best game with 131 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. Quarterbacks Eli Berner and Chris Hart split time. Berner did most of the running, Hart the passing. For now, Carter will continue to play both at quarterback to take advantage of their different talents.

“In our scrimmages we did not play the talent we played tonight,” new Southeastern coach Payton Printz said. “And we looked like we had never been coached in the art of tackling.”

Of course, it was not a perfect night for the Warriors. The Trojans recovered two straight kickoffs to start the second half and scored twice when Hunter Davis rushed from four yards out and threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Owen Flannery. The kickoffs, the touchdown pass and 12 penalties for over 100 yards bothered Carter.

“I know that these kids tasted victory, and I want to build on that as confidence builder,” Carter said. “But ultimately in order for us to be a really good team, we’ve got to be critical of what we’re doing.”

Printz intends to throw the ball a lot out of the spread, but two early fumbles and three interceptions, plus the punt returns, put his team in a hole because of consistent great field position for the Warriors.

“We came out extremely tentative,” Printz said. “I told them we got beat by a better team, but had we come out and played like we did at the beginning of the third quarter, maybe it’s a different ballgame.”