“You should always enjoy the victories because they are difficult to come by.”
That is what Concordia Lutheran coach Tim Mannigel said to his team in the end zone after Friday’s 20-6 win over Northrop. And that game, a battle of two teams in the middle of the SAC pack, was one of those difficult games to win.
It, quite literally, was helped by the way the ball bounced.
The Cadets used two third quarter scores that came in the span of 11 seconds to get the win at Zollner Stadium on the first truly chilly nights of high school football’s 2020 season. Both of the scores were led by Brandon Davis and Tyler Grossman, with the second coming on the first play after Concordia’s Sam Hudson recovered a fumbled Northrop kick return.
“So obviously our ultimate goal is the 3A playoffs. But as we make our way towards that goal, there are steps along the way where we hope we can prove each week we are getting a little bit better in every facet of the game,” Mannigel said. “I don’t know if that happened tonight completely. I know we played pretty well defensively.
“Offensively, some of it was sloppy. Some of that is to Northrop’s credit. But, again, we were able to come out of it with a win. That is encouraging. It is what good teams do. They can win when they don’t play their best.”
It did take Concordia until midway through the third quarter to get on the scoreboard. Northrop’s defense held strong through the first half of the game, mostly stifling the Cadets run game and making Davis scramble out of the pocket and think on the fly.
Julante Hinton and CJ Davis both made big plays for the Bruins in the opening two quarters. A Keone Bates nine-yard run gave Northrop the only score in the first 24 minutes.
Brayden Payne had a first half interception for the Cadets.
“We thought we were playing OK defensively. We did some things to ourselves offensively, again to Northrop’s credit,” Mannigel said. “We did some things to ourselves that were a little uncharacteristic, but if we can just clean that up, we will be OK.”
Things looked like more of the same to start the third quarter when Hinton sacked Davis for a seven-yard loss early on. It was one of Hinton’s 2.5 sacks on the night.
But then Concordia made its magic happen. The sack to bring up 3rd-and-13 didn’t stop the Cadets this time. Instead they kept marching down the field, mixing up the ground game of Amir Drew and Davis finding his receivers with much better success than the first half.
A long pass down to Grossman at the one-yard-line with 6:48 to play in the third quarter set up a Davis keeper for that last yard at 6:29. A Joe Gutman extra point put Concordia up 7-6, but the Cadets wasn’t finished.
“We marched down the field and scored, that was encouraging,” Mannigel said. “That is what we thought we could do from the beginning of the game so I felt better about things at that point.”
On the ensuing kickoff , Northrop’s Dezmend Shaw couldn’t handle the line drive kick as it bounced off the turf and Hudson swarmed in to recover the ball for the Cadets. On Concordia’s only play of the ensuing drive, Davis found Grossman for a 21-yard TD. Grossman snagged the ball by batting it out of the hands of Northrop’s CJ Davis and making the grab on the second effort.
That score came just 11 seconds after the first.
Northrop did have its chances down the stretch. The Cadets threatened again in the closing seconds of the third quarter before Rashawn Boone picked off a pass at the one-yard-line and ran it back 99 yards for what could have been a game tying score. That effort was called partially back for a holding call. Although Northrop still had good field position at the Concordia 35, its next drive came up empty. Northrop moved inside the 10-yard-line, but Kam Johnson and Matt Goeglein stopped Darrius Sanders on a 4th-and-goal play.
“They play fast, they play physical and they get to the ball,” Mannigel said of his defense. “And they had to tonight. [Northrop’s] running back is very good. He’s the best we’ve seen so far. Really he made some plays in the first half that had not been made against our defense.”
The Cadets held that running back, Damarius Cowen, to 76 rushing yards.
Concordia then relied on the steady legs of Drew, who had a stellar second half, to run down the clock and put the game away. The Bruins got hope by forcing a 4th-and-1 with 1:20 to play in the game and the Cadets stalled at the Northrop 13-yard-line. But with the need to just stop Drew from getting a yard, Northrop allowed the seasoned Cadet rusher to bust through for the full 13 and a game-sealing touchdown.
“Amir is running hard, he is a tough runner. Every night for five weeks, he has run really hard so we have a lot of confidence in him,” Mannigel said.
Drew finished with 157 yards on 22 rushing attempts while Davis stayed mobile too and completed 10-of-22 passes for 182 yards. Davis’ return to the Concordia lineup after missing multiple games continues to be a big catalyst in Concordia’s 3-2 first half of the season.
“He’s a good leader, he is one of our captains, he commands the huddle well. Kids want to play hard for him,” Mannigel said of Davis. “He’s obviously very mobile so he can keep plays alive in the pocket when it tends to break down. He is not a perfect player…but he does a lot of things well. He provides facets for our offense that allow us to be the best we can be.”
Grossman led Concordia in receiving with four catches for 99 yards; Goeglein and James Rusher each had 5.5 tackles to lead the Cadets.