Northwestern scored 20 unanswered points in the third quarter to stride into the Class AAAA Division II football Upper State championship game on the heels of a 39-7 win over York.
Under Kyle Richardson, the Trojans (13-0) have been pegged as a passing outfit, but they ran the ball 39 times Friday against the Cougars (10-3), while attempting just 20 passes. That running attack combined with Northwesterns stingy defensive effort, holding the Cougars to just 88 yards on the ground, meant Richardsons crew will be playing football the day after Thanksgiving for the second year in a row. Theyll host North Augusta, after the Yellow Jackets beat Beaufort 23-10.
Once again our defense gets out there and they get after it, Richardson said. To hold them to one less touchdown than the last time we played them, that shows you how focused the defense was.
I cant stand going against them in practice, said sophomore running back Julian Shockley about his defensive teammates. Its the hardest defense Ive ever been with.
The host Trojans punted on their first drive, but then scored touchdowns on six of their next seven, inflicting much of the damage in the middle of the field on the ground. Shockley rumbled for 101 yards on 12 carries and quarterback Mason Rudolph added 80 and two touchdowns on 15 carries. For Shockley, it felt natural to be a major contributor in the second round of the playoffs, even as a 10th grader.
Im glad I can support my team whatever way they need me to, he said afterward, the satisfaction evident.
Northwestern still enjoyed success through the air. Rudolph threw three touchdown passes, including two to Quadarius Fair, who has become a favorite target. Dupree Hart also caught a touchdown pass, ran in another score and tied the schools career receptions record, held by Robert Joseph. The twinkle-toed junior needs just five more catches to break former Summerville standout, and current Cincinnati Bengal, A.J. Greens all-time state record.
My boy Dupree, man, hes a playmaker, said Fair. Its hard to stop him.
It was Rudolphs 24-yard dart to Fair, who dragged tacklers in, that opened the scoring. The tall senior receiver then made it 12-0 to Northwestern late in the first quarter when Rudolph bounced around the pocket buying time before finding a wide open Fair, seriously wide open, in the back of the end zone.
They were too focused on Dupree, he said. We had double coverage all night so we had to find a way to get open, and we ended up doing it.
The Trojans went ahead by three scores with an imperious march on their next possession. After stopping York on fourth-and-1 from the Trojans 2, one of three fourth down stops for the home team on the night, Northwestern drove the ball 99 yards in 16 plays, with Rudolphs 1-yard touchdown plunge the culmination.
York hacked into the deficit with a scoring drive before the intermission, with Deshaw Andrews hitting Daurice Simpson, who flew into the end zone over tacklers to make it 19-7 with 1 minute, 42 seconds left in the second quarter.
But Northwestern, the top remaining seed in the Class AAAA Division II bracket after Goose Creeks loss to South Pointe, bolted out of the locker room in the second half to wrest complete control of the contest. The Trojans stopped York on downs, then rammed the ball down the field with eight runs in a nine-play drive, Hart scooting in for six points to make it 26-7.
The Cougars were finished when Hart took a short dump-off later in the quarter and danced into the end zone, before Rudolph closed the scoring with a 3-yard run, his team-leading 15th rushing touchdown of the season.
We told them all week the focus was on us, and nobody else, said Richardson, and thats what we did tonight. Thats the result.
Northwestern 39, York 7
NHS Quadarius Fair 21 pass from Mason Rudolph (Sully Foy kick failed)
NHS Quadarius Fair 14 pass from Rudolph (Rudolph run failed)
NHS Rudolph 1 run (Foy kick)
YCHS Daurice Simpson 15 pass from Deshaw Andrews (Buddy Anderson kick)
NHS Dupree Hart 1 run (Foy kick)
NHS Hart 11 pass from Rudolph (Foy kick failed)
NHS Rudolph 3 run (Foy kick)
RUSHING YCHS: Ryan Moore 18-64; Deshaw Andrews 10-25; Kyron Schrouder 1-(-7). NHS: Julian Shockley 12-101; Mason Rudolph 15-80; Tori Adams 7-32; Dupree Hart 3-8; Chris Bowler 1-0; Harper Woods 1-0.
PASSING YCHS: Andrews 25-30-0-1; Jerome Pettiway 1-5-1-0. NHS: Rudolph 15-19-0-3; Woods 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING YCHS: Moore 9-33; Josh McCoy 8-55; Daurice Simpson 3-71; Markel Castle 3-12; C.J. Shannon 1-4; Kyron Schrouder 1-(-1); Trinity Shannon 1-(-9). NHS: Quadarius Fair 5-82; Hart 4-52; Logan Rudolph 3-32; Jaquavious Mackey 1-22; Shockley 1-8; Quiveon Beckham 1-2.
RECORDS YCHS 10-3; NHS 13-0
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T