PDT Sports Writer
If offense wins games but defense wins championships, why can’t the defense just act like the offense and win a game?
Entering Week 2 last year at 0-1, the East defense was able to accomplish that feat against a then 1-0 Northwest squad, scoring two touchdowns off interception returns and erasing a 14-6 halftime deficit to post a 34-27 win in McDermott. The win leveled the Tartans record to 1-1 and was a turning point as East finished 8-3 and made a playoff appearance.
The loss for the Mohawks was tough to swallow for coach Brooks Fry as his team won two of their remaining eight contests. One year later, the two squads meet tonight in Sciotoville as the home team seeks a 2-0 start while the guests are vying for their first win.
“We basically did the same thing last Friday night against (Chillicothe) Southeastern, we only gave up one offensive touchdown and end up getting beat by two points,” Fry said. “…It was a game that we probably should’ve won by two, maybe three touchdowns and that was with playing some guys that haven’t played in a long time.”
Northwest’s 23-21 loss to the Panthers was a great teaching tool for his group, whom he has described as an “old young” team. In Friday night’s game, only four players had played any varsity time last season.
East is coming off a 36-28 win last week at South Gallia. After one of the school’s greatest individual performances, Tartans senior quarterback Justin Crager will try to top his performance against the Rebels as he ran 38 times for 355 yards and all five East touchdowns. He was named the Ohio National Guard JJHuddle Ohio Co-Player of the Week.
Crager’s coach, Todd Gilliland, knew once the flow of the game had been established, the ball was going to stay in his signal caller’s hands.
“We saw they didn’t really have the speed and quickness to keep up with him,” Gilliland said. “The game just kind of progressed, we stuck the ball in his hands and he just kept asking for the ball.
“As the game went along, especially late in the third and fourth quarters, it was like everyone knew who was going to carry the ball. Our line buckled down and just did a real nice job of blocking in front of him, he was able to break some nice runs and carry us to victory.”
When Fry first found out about Crager’s performance, he was impressed.
“I remember that,” Fry said. “He basically had a lot of those nights last year and he had a lot of those nights the year before.
“He is, in my opinion, the best player in our area and it’s not even close. If you put him on any other team in the area, he’s going to do the same thing.”
In his first varsity start at quarterback for Northwest, Dustin Seaman finished 5-for-10 passing for 129 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“That’s not an easy thing to do,” Fry said. “It’s hard to take a couple years off period, at any position, particularly at quarterback. I thought he did a really nice job and he’s got the skill set, he’s athletic, he throws the ball well and he’s a good leader.”
Although he recognizes the inexperience, Gilliland understands this Mohawk offense can put up some yards.
“We know they’re a good ball club and they have a couple nice receivers that are big, physical and do a great job of catching the ball,” Gilliland said. “Their backfield runs hard so we know they’re coming in, they’re going to be hungry for their first win and it’s going to be a really hard-hitting, physical ball game.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org.