UPDATED: Northwestern football team is 3-0
What a difference a year can make. In 2008, the Northwestern High School football team lost its conference opener with Ladysmith. Falling behind 14-0 in the first half, the Tigers steamed back and had a chance to tie the game with 1:23 left to play.
What a difference a year can make.
In 2008, the Northwestern High School football team lost its conference opener with Ladysmith. Falling behind 14-0 in the first half, the Tigers steamed back and had a chance to tie the game with 1:23 left to play. Northwestern lined up for a two-point conversion but came up short and lost to the Lumberjacks, 14-12.
At the end of the season, that conference loss to Ladysmith came back to haunt the Tigers. Northwestern finished just one win short of making the playoffs.
"That was the game that pushed us out of the playoffs in my mind," said Dennis Scherz, head coach of the Tigers. "That was the team that I felt we should have beat. We had twice as much offense as they did, and we came up short."
This year, the Tigers weren't about to let the game come down to the last minute and a half. Northwestern racked up 51 points in the first half and coasted to a 51-9 victory Friday night. The Tigers are now 1-0 in the Heart O' North Conference and 3-0 overall.
"Before I look at the film, it all went perfect," Scherz said of the Tigers' dominant win. "But we'll take a look at the film, and I'm sure there's lots of ways we can improve, and that's our intention. We're not where we want to be. We want to improve every game."
The Tigers took the lead about four minutes into the game Friday. After running the ball heavily, Northwestern caught Ladysmith off guard when quarterback Steven Perry found Tyler Forsythe in the end zone. The Tigers completed the two-point conversion and sent the ball back to the Lumberjacks up 8-0.
One of Northwestern's only weak moments occurred on Ladysmith's kickoff return, which eventually resulted in a field goal. The Lumberjacks returned the ball to the 30 and then marched down the field into the red zone. The Tigers prevented the touchdown but still surrendered three points.
"We were pretty disappointed. We've got a good kickoff team and they just weren't doing the things the needed to do, and that was being physical," Scherz said.
Northwestern began its second possession of the game on its own 20. Senior running backs Kevin Derick and Ryan Miesbauer combined to move the Tigers steadily down the field to Ladysmith's 23 yard line. A holding penalty moved Northwestern back to first and 20, but Derick gained 15 back with a fast carry. Jake Schiff then dodged two tackles on the last play of the quarter and kept his feet to get the first down and excellent field position to start the second quarter.
The Tigers' TJ Polkoski ran the ball in just three second into the second period, and Forsythe caught the two-point pass from Perry to make it 16-3 for Northwestern.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers came up with one of two decisive tackles that Scherz believes turned the tide Friday.
"The next kickoff we had, TJ Polkoski came down and made a massive hit; I think it was inside the 20," Scherz said. "Then we scored, and the next one came down, and Jake Schiff took the wind out of the fans. It was a huge hit. You could hear it echo through the stadium, and the fans were just in awe.
"Those two hits dictated the rest of the game. You just don't get hit like that and not take notice."
After Polkoski's hit, the Lumberjacks struggled from their first snap. Ladysmith lost a yard on its first play and then threw an incomplete pass. On third down, Ladysmith tried to pass again, but this time Northwestern's Lee Brown was able to get in front for the interception.
It took the Tigers just 30 second to score after Brown's pick, and then Schiff came up with his big hit. Ladysmith actually lost total yardage in that series, and Northwestern went on to scored four more touchdowns before the end of the quarter to lead 51-3.
"That's what coach wanted was he wanted the game to be over at halftime, and that's what he got," Derick said.
Northwestern was able to play its JV squad for the entirety of the second half. The third and fourth quarters were also played under running time because of the mercy rule that applies when a team leads by 35 points or more in the second half.
Ladysmith scored its only touchdown of the game in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter when Zane Holt caught a pass from Eric Effertz. But Scherz was still happy with the effort of is second string players.
"I would call that our second varsity because those are some good players there," Scherz said. "That is our JV team, but those are all juniors, and they're all good football players."
Derick agreed with his coach's assessment. If not for the backup players, Derick said Northwestern would have trouble challenging itself to improve every week.
"It's all on the red team defense when we're practicing," Derick said. "We put the credit on the red team, that's for sure. Without them, we couldn't be doing what we're doing."
For the night, the Tigers had seven touchdowns - six rushing and one receiving. Derick and Polkoski both had two touchdowns on the ground and Miesbauer and Schiff had one each. Forsythe caught a nine-yard pass for Northwestern's other touchdown. Meral Eray was 5-for-5 on extra point kicks, and the Tigers also added a pair of two-point conversions.
Derick led the team in yards rushing with 88, followed closely by Miesbauer with 83. Schiff finished with 59 yards and Justin Alexson had 35. Quarterback Steve Perry was 2-for-3 for 21 yards and one touchdown, and Lee Brown had an interception for 12 yards. Backup quarterback Cody Kontny was 2-for-5 for 22 yards.
The season is just beginning, but the Tigers have already come a long way. Looking back to last year, Scherz can see the difference not only in Northwestern's skill development but also in the Tigers' confidence.
"That was at that point where these guys were a year younger and didn't know. They just didn't believe at that point," Scherz said. "Now they do."
Northwestern 51, Ladysmith 9
Northwestern 8 43 0 0 -- 51
Ladysmith 3 0 0 6 -- 9
Northwestern -- Steven Perry 9-yard pass to Tyler Forsythe (Ryan Miesbauer, 2-pnt. conversion), 7:55.
Ladysmith -- Field goal, 4:57.
Northwestern -- TJ Polkoski 2-yard run (Kevin Derick, 2-pnt. conversion), 11:57.
Northwestern -- Jake Schiff 7-yard run (Meral Eray, kick), 10:28.
Northwestern -- TJ Polkoski 1-yard run (Eray, kick), 7:33.
Northwestern -- Derick run (Eray, kick), 4:34.
Northwestern -- Miesbauer run (Eray, kick), 3:08.
Northwestern -- Derick run (Eray, kick), :29.
Ladysmith -- Eric Effertz pass to Zane Holt, 6:46.