Norse stun Knights

By Eric Christiansen

The Northfield Norsemen started the 2019 football season with an 0-4 record that included a 20-6 loss to Southwood on Sept. 13. Since that loss, the Norse have won seven straight contests, including a stifling 14-6 win over the Class 1A No. 3 Knights Friday, Nov. 1.

“[Our guys] did exactly what we told them to do,” Northfield coach Brandon Baker said after the game. “We had to attack on offense and our defense up front did their job.”

Sticking to the offense the Norse have utilized all year, they ran the ball and ran the clock on the opening drive of the game.

Quarterback Levi Fulkerson, who finished the game with 109 yards on the ground on 37 carries, led a steady and deliberate Northfield offense in its opening drive.

Starting at their own 38-yard line, Northfield rushed on its first eight plays.

They took to the air on a fourth and five play when Fulkerson hit Graydon Holmes for six yards to keep the drive going.

After five more rushing plays led to a fourth and two on the Southwood six-yard line, Fulkerson pitched the ball to Holmes who found the end zone with 4:27 left in the first quarter. The extra point from Trent Osborn made it a 7-0 Northfield lead.

“We told them that getting three yards a play was enough,” Baker said. “The clock would keep rolling and our offense stays on the field. In all my [18] years of coaching, this was the best execution of that.”

Southwood didn't flinch on its opening drive with a similar offensive approach.

After a big kickoff return by Elijah Sutton gave the Knights the ball on its own 49-yard line, Southwood chipped away with a combination of short runs and passes.

Facing a fourth and six, Knight quarterback Alex Farr was picked off by Seth Forsyth, but a face mask penalty on Northfield gave the ball back to the Knights.

Four plays the later, Southwood faced a fourth and 10 on the 10-yard line, and Farr found Carson Rich in the end zone for a touchdown with just over 30 seconds left in the first quarter. The failed extra point kept the score 7-6 in favor of Northfield.

Northfield once again went to the ground on its next possession, driving the ball to the Southwood 33-yard line in eight plays before Southwood recovered a fumble, but the play was called back on an offside penalty.

Four plays later, Connor Rich picked off a Fulkerson pass, giving the back to the Knights with 7:20 left in the fist half.

Both teams possessed the ball twice in the final 7:20 of the half, but it was Northfield who capitalized on a Southwood mistake to take the lead.

Southwood lined up to punt on its own 34-yard line, but the snap went over Farr's head. Both teams scrambled for the ball and Northfield's Braden Ripplinger came up with it at the nine-yard line with 2:09 left in the half.

On Fulkerson's third rush of the short drive, he scored from one yard out with 14.9 seconds left, and Osborn's extra point took the Norse into halftime with a 14-6 lead.

Both defenses tightened up in the third quarter with only Southwood reaching the red zone once.

The teams traded punts throughout the fourth quarter until Fulkerson ran the ball six straight plays to put the ball on the three-yard line with 1:58 left in game, setting up a field goal attempt that could make it a two-possession game.

Instead, Osborn's field goal attempt was wide-left from 22 yards out, giving Southwood life.

Taking over on the 28-yard line, Farr hit Dawson Filip for 13 yards, Carson Heath for 11 yards and Gabe Lloyd for three yards to put the ball on the 48-yard line with 30.3 seconds remaining.

With 25.8 seconds left in the game and the ball on the Knight's 49 yard line, Farr found Jackson Simons for eight yards to keep the drive alive.

After three straight incomplete passes, Southwood had one last shot on fourth and 10 with 2.8 seconds remaining.

Farr heaved the Hail Mary to the end zone but the pass was incomplete to end Southwood's previously undefeated season.

It was the second straight undefeated season that ended in the sectional for the Knights.

“We were never able to get the offense going,” Southwood head coach Dave Snyder said.

Northfield's Baker commended his own defense for holding the Knights to one score, the first time Southwood didn't reach 20 points all season.

“Upfront, the defense did the job,” he said. “We held the number-three team to six points. It was a fantastic effort.”

With a tight game comes tight statistics where Northfield accumulated 191 total yards and 13 first downs compared to Southwood's 152 yards and 12 first downs.

Along with Fuklerson's 109 rushing yards, Jarret Shafer ran for 40 yards on eight carries, Holmes rushed for 14 yards on four carries, and Alex Haupert produced 12 yards on three rushes.

Holmes and Forsyth each had one reception.

Southwood's individual statistics were not available.

Northfield improved to 7-4 on the season and will host Class 1A No. 4 Adams Central (10-1) Friday, Nov. 8.

The Norse and Flying Jets have two common opponents this season with Northfield losing to Bluffton 24-20 and defeating North Miami 23-12, while Adams Central topped Bluffton 33-7 and advanced to the sectional championship game with a 48-22 win over North Miami.

Kickoff Friday is at 7 p.m.

Posted on 2019 Nov 05