ROCK HILL — Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson knows the best way to take a 2,000-yard rusher out of the equation is to build an early lead.
The Trojans obliged in a 34-0 win against the Easley Green Wave in the first round of the Class 4A Division II playoffs Friday at District Three Stadium. Northwestern (10-2) advances to face West Florence (10-2) next Friday.
We knew if we could get the lead that would be to our advantage with them being a run-based team, Richardson said. Thats a good football team, but our defense completely stepped up to the challenge tonight.
The Trojans locked down junior standout C.J. Fuller, who rushed for 2,014 yards in the regular season out of the Wing-T offense. He was limited to 74 yards on 23 attempts, including 37 yards on 13 carries the first half.
Northwesterns Shug Baxter said the goal was to hold the Green Wave to less than 200 rushing yards. That goal was met at 139 yards.
As for the shutout?
Thats a bonus, Baxter said. Im just glad we could come out and execute the plays and the calls our coaches had for us.
While Easley struggled, Northwesterns Air Raid took off.
Mason Rudolph, who finished with five touchdown passes, completed his first six passes. He then hit Dupree Hart on a wheel route for a quick 7-0 lead with 8:19 left in the first quarter.
Two fourth-down plays defined the second quarter. Easley (9-3) faced a fourth-and-3 from the Trojans 31-yard line, but Fuller was tackled one yard short of a first down. Northwestern marched to the Green Wave 12 yard line in response before facing a fourth-and-8 of its own.
Rudolph found a diving Hart at the stick, and two plays later the tandem combined for a 2-yard shovel pass for a touchdown.
Those two plays were back-breakers in a game like this, Richardson said.
Rudolph added another 9-yard touchdown pass to Jared Balasco before halftime for a commanding 21-0 lead.
Northwestern recovered a fumble by Fuller in a scoreless third quarter, and Rudolph put the game away with a 30-yard touchdown to a wide-open Hart with 6:20 remaining and a last-minute touchdown pass to Antonio Hardy.
The Trojans won their 10th consecutive playoff game at home, a streak that dates back to 2007. Northwestern will travel next week to face West Florence, however.
In the regular season we had just four home games and played in several hostile environments, Richardson said. That is why we set the schedule up like that. Well be ready to play.
Northwestern 34, Easley 0
NW-Mason Rudolph 16 pass to Dupree Hart (Sully Foy kick)
NW-Rudolph 2 pass to Hart (Foy kick)
NW-Rudolph 9 pass to Jared Balasco (Foy kick)
NW-Rudolph 30 pass to Hart (Kick failed)
NW-Rudolph 43 pass to Antonio Hardy (Foy kick)
RUSHING EASLEY: C.J. Fuller 23-74, Arthur Bowens 7-29, J.R. Crawford 9-24, Kevin Bryant 1-2, Dee Gamble 5-5, Troy McGowens 2-5. NORTHWESTERN: Tori Adams 7-32, LaThomas Long 6-37, Hart 1-2, Rudolph 6-0.
PASSING EASLEY: Bryant 1-2-0, 3 yards; McGowens 1-2-0, 8 yards. NORTHWESTERN: Rudolph 23-38-0, 249 yards.
RECEIVING EASLEY: Bowens 2-11. NORTHWESTERN: Hart 10-89, Ronatavius McClure 3-26, Adams 3-18, Mustafia Love 2-15, Ahmad Dewese 2-24, Hardy 1-43, Long 1-25, Balasco 1-9.
RECORDS: Easley 9-3, Northwestern 10-2.