KNOX COUNTY – On Friday night, Knox County high school football fans were treated to a classic in East Knox-Northmor. They also saw Centerburg and Danville escape with close road wins, while Fredericktown and Mount Vernon continued to slide.
But those are just the headlines. Here’s how each game unfolded on Friday night:
East Knox 14
For two teams averaging a combined 93 points per game heading into Week 7, this game was surprisingly dictated by defense. Northmor (7-0, 4-0 KMAC) scored on its first offensive possession of the night, but things slowed down considerably after that.
The Golden Knights allowed just one offensive touchdown on Friday night, a two-yard touchdown plunge from East Knox running back Kasson Krownapple in the second quarter, which made it 8-7 Northmor at halftime. The Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1 KMAC) were held to 249 yards of total offense, and quarterback Kadden Lester threw his first three interceptions of the season. Krownapple was limited to 3.6 yards per carry, when he averaged nearly 11 yards per rush coming into Friday.
Meanwhile, the East Knox defense held their own against a potent Golden Knight offense. Northmor was held to 216 total yards, while star tailback Conor Becker was limited to 71 rushing yards (he had been averaging 216 per game). But Becker’s carries were big, and he did damage when it mattered.
After East Knox linebacker Weston Melick returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown with five minutes left in the game, making it 14-8 East Knox, the Northmor offense rolled right back down the field. After scoring once to begin the game, Becker finished the deal on Friday during crunchtime. With 2:44 left on the clock, Becker spun off would-be tacklers and rumbled into the endzone from 20 yards out. An extra point made it 15-14 Northmor.
East Knox marched to the Northmor 39-yard line but turned the ball over on downs after a pass was batted down in the end zone, and Northmor then proceeded to run out the clock to seal the deal. With the win, Northmor stayed tied with Highland atop the KMAC standings. East Knox dropped one game back from first with the loss.
In Marengo, Highland (6-1, 4-0 KMAC) rolled to its sixth straight win. For the second week in a row, the Fighting Scots led 44-0 at halftime. This time, the visiting Freddies played victim.
Tailback Brock Veley began the onslaught by returning the opening kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown. Later in the first quarter, fullback Tate Tobin added a touchdown plunge. Then running back Brody Matthews got in on the action, scoring twice within a span of two minutes.
Highland led Fredericktown (1-6, 1-3 KMAC) 30-0 after one quarter.
The Fighting Scots tacked on two more scores in the second quarter, while the Freddies’ offensive struggles continued against a staunch Highland defense. Fredericktown amassed just 111 yards of total offense on Friday night, including three turnovers.
Quarterback Terry Fearn got the visitors on the scoreboard midway through the third quarter with a 40-yard touchdown scamper. He finished with 51 passing yards and 44 rushing yards, leading the Freddies in total yardage.
Meanwhile, Highland racked up 319 yards of total offense, including 251 rushing yards on 40 carries (6.2 yards per carry). Much like last week against Mount Gilead (a 58-0 win), the Scots spread the love offensively. Four different running backs rushed for 30 yards or more (12 Scots carried the ball in total), led by Matthews, who tallied 94 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries.
The clock ran the entire second half.
After starting the season 0-5, Danville has now won two straight. The Blue Devils (2-5, 2-2 KMAC) fended off Cardington-Lincoln (0-7, 0-4 KMAC) on the road on Friday night, as they used an early lead to keep the Pirates at bay.
Danville scored twice during the first quarter, as running back Chris Greenawalt powered in for a two-yard touchdown and tailback Langdon Johnson added an 18-yard scoring rush with 1:40 left. The Blue Devils scored again in the second quarter on a six-yard touchdown pass to wideout Corbin Hazen.
Cardington-Lincoln kept it close the whole night, however, as the Pirates trailed 21-14 at the half. But the Blue Devil defense put together an impressive second half, as they shut Cardington out. They gave up 244 total yards of offense while snagging two interceptions and forcing two fumbles on Friday night.
Meanwhile, the Danville offense chugged along at a steady pace all night long. The Blue Devils rushed for 237 yards, led by Greenawalt, who finished with 153 yards and a score. Quarterback Dalton David threw 7-of-16 for 101 yards and a touchdown.
The icing on the cake came five seconds into the fourth quarter, when Nathaniel Wilson ran the ball in from six yards out to give the Blue Devils a two-score lead. Cardington-Lincoln was held scoreless for the last 27:55 of the game.
Mount Vernon 14
Mount Vernon (2-5, 0-3 OCC) dropped its fourth straight game on Friday night at Energy Field. Wooster (5-2, 4-0 OCC) dominated the Yellow Jackets from start to finish, as the Generals proved why they are currently in sole possession of first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.
Wooster jumped out to a 23-7 halftime lead and held on to win in a running-clock affair. The Generals were led by quarterback Dylan Dagley, who threw for 209 yards on 17-of-28 passing and rushed for 101 more. He also scored on a 91-yard punt return.
Mount Vernon was without one of its key playmakers, running back Ashton Fisher, who typically splits rushing duties alongside Wyatt Gregory. The Yellow Jackets were led by quarterback Noah Hubbard, who threw 13-of-24 for 115 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Hubbard’s touchdown passes came in the second quarter (a 13-yard throw to wideout Cory Berg) and the fourth quarter (a strike to Gavin Moyer). The clock ran most of the second half, as Wooster scored on its first two possessions, quickly pushing the lead to 30 points.
With Ashland and West Holmes both suffering upset losses on Friday, Wooster now sits alone atop the OCC, one game ahead of Lexington. Mount Vernon is tied with Madison at the bottom of the conference standings.
Mount Gilead 18
Centerburg (4-3, 2-2 KMAC) outlasted Mount Gilead (0-7, 0-4 KMAC) on Friday night in a game that was closer than many may have expected.
The Indians, who had scored 32 points all season coming into Friday night and have not won a game since October 2016, trailed by just eight points at halftime. Mount Gilead narrowed the deficit to 20-18 heading into the fourth quarter, but Centerburg pulled away behind a late touchdown rush from quarterback John Sheasby. The Trojan defense also came through in the clutch, as they shut out the Indians in the final quarter.
Centerburg got running back Donnell Marshall back last week, and he picked up right where he left off before his injury, rushing for a 12-yard touchdown near the end of the first quarter. The Trojans then increased the lead to 13-0 after Preston Barber returned an interception to the house with 1:07 left in the opening period.
Mount Gilead fired back with two touchdowns in the second quarter, however – one on a 20-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Nathan Rodgers to wideout Owen Blanton, the next on a three-yard plunge from tailback Brady Mermann. A Sheasby touchdown pass to wideout John Wharton made it 20-12 Trojans at halftime.
Centerburg forced three Mount Gilead turnovers, while the Indians forced two themselves. Sheasby finished with 87 passing yards and 93 rushing yards, while Marshall tallied 56 yards in his return to the Trojan backfield. For Mount Gilead, Rodgers threw 13-of-29 for 144 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Centerburg and Danville are now tied for fourth in the KMAC at 2-2, and those schools will play each other this week. Mount Gilead, meanwhile, saw its losing streak run to 19 games with last week's loss.
The ‘M’ in KMAC… Of the eight teams in the Knox Morrow Athletic Conference, four are from Knox County and four are from Morrow County. And over the first year and a half of the conference’s existence, Knox County has held a slight advantage on the football field – Knox County has 39 total wins, while Morrow County has 32. This past week bucked that trend, however. The counties may have split 2-2, but Morrow showed strides where it counts. Both Northmor and Highland won again, setting them alone atop the KMAC standings with three weeks to play. In doing so, Northmor knocked off Knox County’s best team, East Knox, while Highland demoralized local rival Fredericktown. And even in its two losses, Morrow County played strong this weekend. A Mount Gilead upset over Centerburg would have been colossal, given the Indians’ inability to come anywhere near the win column over the past two seasons, and they nearly pulled it off. That alone is an accomplishment. And Cardington-Lincoln, which has played some of the conference’s best teams close in spots this season, kept things respectful against Danville. Long story short, even though Knox County has held the edge so far, there should be hope out west.
The Danville Blue Devils... While Danville started the season 0-5, as the Blue Devils dealt with the graduation of some all-time program greats from last year’s state semifinal team, it should be noted that their schedule through the first half of the season was ridiculous. The combined record of Danville’s first five opponents is now 31-3. All five teams have a high probability of making the playoffs and two are still undefeated, seven weeks into the season. So now that things are beginning to level out for the Blue Devils (and they’re becoming more comfortable with new personnel), they’re slowly finding their groove. Over the past two weeks, Danville has won by 17 and 13. The offense has been steady, going for 462 yards and 338 yards against Fredericktown and Cardington-Lincoln, respectively. Quarterback Dalton David, in his first year as a starter, is seeming to find his groove after a rough first month. The Blue Devils also have running back Chris Greenawalt, the team's leading rusher, back and healthy. And on defense, Danville has contained two capable offenses over the past two weeks. After a brutal opening half of 2018, things are looking up for the defending KMAC co-champions.
Closer games… Heading into Week 7, KMAC fans were faced with a startling reality; the average win-loss deficit for the first 12 conference games this season was 32.75 points per game. Up until last week, the closest KMAC game had been Danville’s 17-point win over Fredericktown, a game that the Blue Devils controlled the entire way. The blowouts came early and often. In Week 7, however, that trend took a serious hit. Other than Highland’s dismissal of Fredericktown, the conference saw three close games. Northmor won by one point, Centerburg won by eight, and Danville escaped Cardington with a 13-point victory. Fans were treated to back-and-forth battles in all three games, all of which came down to the final quarter. It was a refreshing change of pace, but it might not last for long. Things could get ugly again this week, as the conference’s top teams will face those at the bottom. Northmor (7-0) plays Mount Gilead (0-7), Highland (6-1) plays Cardington-Lincoln (0-7), and East Knox (6-1) plays Fredericktown (1-6). The one close game will likely be Danville (2-5) vs. Centerburg (4-3), a battle of two teams even in the middle of the conference. Sadly, the average deficit might be closer to that 30-point mark this week than what fans saw in Week 7. Such is life.
1. Northmor (4-0, 7-0)
1. Highland (4-0, 6-1)
3. East Knox (3-1, 6-1)
4. Centerburg (2-2, 4-3)
4. Danville (2-2, 2-5)
6. Fredericktown (1-3, 1-6)
7. Cardington-Lincoln (0-4, 0-7)
7. Mount Gilead (0-4, 0-7)
Week 8 matchups:
- Mount Gilead (0-7) at Northmor (7-0) – 7 p.m.
- Highland (6-1) at Cardington-Lincoln (0-7) – 7 p.m.
- East Knox (6-1) at Fredericktown (1-6) – 7 p.m.
- Centerburg (4-3) at Danville (2-5) – 7 p.m.
1. Wooster (4-0, 5-2)
2. Lexington (3-1, 3-4)
3. Ashland (2-1, 5-2)
4. West Holmes (2-2, 5-2)
5. Mansfield Senior (1-2, 3-4)
6. Mount Vernon (0-3, 2-5)
6. Madison (0-3, 1-6)
Week 7 scoreboard:
- Wooster beat Mount Vernon, 44-14
- Mansfield Senior beat Ashland, 26-21
- Lexington beat West Holmes, 34-33
- St. Charles beat Madison, 41-14*
Week 8 matchups:
- Wooster (5-2) at Mansfield Senior (3-4) – 7 p.m.
- Lexington (3-4) at Ashland (5-2) – 7 p.m.
- Mount Vernon (2-5) at Madison (1-6) – 7 p.m.
- West Branch (6-1) at West Holmes (5-2) – 7 p.m.*