LANCASTER -- Northwestern thought its fill-the-skies offense might be bogged after a full rainy Friday. The Trojans knew they would have trouble moving the ball, what with a soggy field, hard-to-handle pigskins and a tough Lancaster defense.
They needn't have worried.
The Bruins made it easy.
Northwestern scored its first two touchdowns after Lancaster handed the ball away, and the Trojans improved to 5-0 with a 27-7 win. Their passing attack shorted out by the rain, overthrown receivers and interceptions, the Trojans simply turned to workhorse Jarrett Neely and their defense to win a local battle of the unbeatens.
"A lot of people said we can't run the ball," said Neely, who led the Trojans in rushing (104 yards) and receiving (81). "It was a little wet out here tonight. We just stuck with the run game and the O-line did a good job blocking for me tonight."
It was a tough row to hoe for the Bruins (4-1), who stopped the Trojans on two fourth-and-1 attempts, but were undone by their own mistakes. Three fumbles and a pick in the first half turned into 20 Northwestern points, and although Lancaster doggedly hung in the game, it never got into the end zone before the result was well in hand.
"It's been a tough week for us," Northwestern coach Jimmy Wallace said. "We knew we were going to have to fight, and we did. I wish we would have played with a little more intensity, but we didn't, and we all know the reason for that. But we're proud of our kids."
The Bruins' first mistake happened in the first quarter, after they'd forced a punt on the Trojans' first series. Brion Strothers took the kick and ran into a scrum, where he was met by the boom-dropping shoulder of Dontavius Mills.
The ball popped loose, Austin Wiles recovered and Northwestern suddenly had a second chance. Neely carried four times for 17 yards, finishing with a 2-yard plunge for a score.
The kick was blocked and Lancaster redeemed itself on the next drive, having to punt but Strothers intercepting Justin Worley on the Trojans' next possession. But that drive ended sourly (even after a Neely punt return for a TD being negated after a block in the back) as did the next one, when Matt Reese was sacked well behind the line, losing the ball to Northwestern's Richard Crank.
It only took two plays for the Trojans to score another touchdown, Worley smacking Cordarrelle Patterson in the chest with a 2-yard slant. The two-point conversion was a pass to Neely and the Trojans were up 14-0, two Bruin mistakes and two Northwestern scores.
Chris Long's interception of Reese turned into another Trojan touchdown, Worley finding Neely streaking past the secondary from 32 yards. Up 20-0 at the half, Northwestern kept it mostly on the ground in the second half, until the Trojans stopped the Bruins at the Northwestern 34-yard line.
A couple of Neely runs picked up 19 yards and Sanbobis McCleod took a pitch for another 11 yards. Worley found Patterson on a sideline for a 22-yard gain, and the Trojans set up shop on the Bruins' 26.
Spying an opening, Worley ran the same pattern he had before. He saw Julian Patton behind the secondary and lofted a pretty 26-yard touchdown to salt the game.
Neely's hands and feet, plus another vicious performance from the defense, notched another Northwestern win.
"I never give up, even when I make mistakes," said Long, who snared two interceptions. "Earlier this week in practice, we were feeling kind of down, but we came back and came out there strong."
Lancaster's highlight came from Strothers, who did a little bit of everything. He only had one interception, but caught two others out-of-bounds and dropped another. Then he took a fourth-quarter punt return 49 yards before being tackled on the half-inch line, which set up the Bruins' only score.
With the win out of the way, Northwestern turned to its next order of business -- a match with South Pointe on Thursday. The Trojans, ranked second in the latest Class AAAA poll, will meet the tied-for-third Stallions in a battle for city -- and perhaps state -- supremacy.
"It's going to be a war, that's all I've got to say," Neely finished.
For a photo gallery of this game, visit The Herald's Web site at
Tickets for the Northwestern-South Pointe game on Thursday night will be on sale at both schools on Saturday from 1-3 p.m. They can be purchased at the F-gym ticket booth at Northwestern and at the athletics office at South Pointe. Tickets are $7 in advance and $8 at the gate.
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