For the Daily Times
MINFORD — Friday’s game between the Minford Falcons (3-1) and the Northwest Mohawks (2-2) started off with a commanding drive by the Falcons, who ended up winning the game 53-0. They soaked up eight minutes of clock time just to get the ball down the field inside the twenty yard line.
The Falcons’ host of running backs pushed for two- and three-yard gains up the field, racking up three third down conversions in their first outing. Then, with the end zone in sight, sophomore quarterback Noah Gray took to the air for a nine yard quick catch completion to junior tight end Simon Thoroughman. The hometown crowd erupted.
In the last four minutes of the first quarter the Falcons scored two more TDs; one on a 24-yard run from Gray, the other coming after a Northwest punt that was tipped by senior lineman Cain Madden. That left Gray and crew in great field position inside the 35. Junior tailback Tyler Compton pressed right up the middle of the field for a 20 yard touchdown on their next drive.
The Mohawks struggled to get anything going all evening. They were busy keeping Minford’s lineman duo of Madden and fellow senior Eli Daniels away from sophomore quarterback Garrett Rowe. Madden could be considered defensive player of the game and Gray MVP.
Rowe attempted less than ten passes on the evening with three landing on target. One completion was a beautiful spiral that landed into senior Garrett Simon’s hand for a 28 yd gain. Another pass was pulled down expertly by junior receiver Austin Jenkins and junior Doug Benson pulled off a successful short route for a first down nine yard catch.
Despite a few well-thrown balls, Rowe had a hard time finding his targets and communication looked difficult for the Mohawks. Rowe threw for three picks due to his receivers breaking away from the throw. Minford sophomore corner Sean Gambill intercepted two passes and sophomore Breydan Tilley intercepted a late game Rowe pass for a 50-plus yard touchdown.
The highlight of the Mohawk offense was junior running back Trevan Bazler, who worked very hard to take the ball forward. Bazler ran for about 40 yards on the evening, most attempts for less than two or three.
The Mohawks offense did not know how to handle the aggressive nature of the Minford line. It was plain to see. The entire Northwest offensive line surged forward creating a Spartan phalanx around Bazler on their most successful attempts.
The sheer force of Madden, Daniels and late in the game junior lineman Chaz Hamilton stunned the Mohawks. Madden interrupted punt attempts all night, with the most difficult to watch happening with less than three minutes left in the final quarter of play. The Falcons kicked off after a touchdown and the ball was spotted after a few bounces at the four-yard line. The Mohawks went three-and-out and when they went to punt Madden leapt over the line and tipped the ball, straight up into the air. The ball was spotted on the four.
Minford’s junior tailback Kade Mcquate only need one rush to capitalize on that positioning, scoring a four yard touchdown with an outside run.
Other Minford highlights were the Gray 37-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Landon Caudill, senior Kody Kennedy’s 11-yard touchdown late in the third quarter and senior tailback Michael Stiltner’s 50-plus yard punt return touchdown.
The game was not necessarily decided by Minfords myriad of running options (seven boys got multiple attempts and over 320 yards between them) or the offensive and defensive line that created a mobile Great Wall.
The biggest deciding factor was the Mohawks’ defensive secondary that left huge gaps to be exploited. The Falcons capitalized on this time and time again. Tailbacks had room to double back and cross the breadth of the field before a corner could get to them. Coverage was a huge issue because of Gray’s effectiveness, both in the air and on the ground.
Minford takes the field next Friday when they host Division V power Columbus Bishop Ready. Northwest will open SOC I play when they take on Eastern next Saturday.
Cody Leightenheimer is a stringer for the Portsmouth Daily Times. Reach him on Twitter at @leightenheimer