Turpin, who entered the game with 1,137 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns, put the Bears ahead twice with runs of 47 and 19 yards. They led 20-14 at the end of the third quarter.
“It was a very physical game,” said Bears senior right tackle Jeremiah Carter. “But the second half we came out more dominant and we started getting things together.”
The Eagles (4-4, 2-3) had rebounded to take the lead twice on touchdown runs of 14 and five yards by Landon Rich, who rushed for over 100 yards. Then came the two clinching moments.
Northridge faced fourth-and-1 at its own 32 and lined up to go for it. Smith had no intention of running the play and was going to punt, but sometimes the oldest trick in the playbook works. Quarterback Riley Holmes got the Eagles to jump offsides for a first down.
Turpin went 62 yards for a touchdown on the next play and the game was over. The next thing he held was the trophy.
“That’s very exciting,” he said. “I can’t ask for more – just teammates’ love. Words just can’t explain right now.”
Turpin could say that about the season the Bears are having, too. They are 6-2 and 5-0 in the inaugural season of the Three Rivers Conference, which has proven to be more competitively balanced for the Bears than the Southwestern Buckeye League.
“It fits us well, especially with experience level of some of our guys,” Smith said. “And I like the league after not knowing at first. I don’t have anything bad to say about it at all.”
After suffering through an 0-9 season last year, the Bears are also in position to earn their first playoff berth other than last year when every team got in because of the COVID-shortened season. They entered the week No. 14 in Division IV, Region 16. The top 16 teams get in.
“It’s very exciting to turn the program around compared to how our season went last year,” Turpin said. “And I’m glad to lead the team.”
Now comes the game of the year in the new league next Friday. The Bears travel to Milton-Union (6-1, 4-0), which plays at Bethel tonight.
“We’ve got to study film and prepare for them,” Turpin said. “Because they’ll prepare for us.”
The Bulldogs will undoubtedly plan to stop Turpin, but Smith says his team’s passing game can be good. Thursday’s first touchdown came on a short throw from Holmes to Jayden Kelly that turned into a 45-yard touchdown.
“We’ve got some good receivers and fast kids, but we haven’t got the ball out because we’ve been able to run so much,” Smith said. “They’re not selfish, they block, they do what they have to do.”
The Eagles lost fullback and linebacker Josh Ronicker to injury in the first quarter. The Eagles were already thin on linemen.
“They’re a physical team and we stayed with them pretty much the whole ballgame,” Nolan said. “I’ve got nothing to feel bad about.”