Perfect Thursday is what Northwestern’s football program calls the last day of practice before its Friday games.
The Trojans produced a different kind of Perfect Thursday against the York Cougars. Playing a day early because of a thunderstorm threat Friday, Northwestern was very nearly perfect in trouncing the No. 1 4A team in the state 44-19.
“Our kids came out ready to play,” said Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson. “Both teams have to go through the same thing, so whoever handles the distractions the best has a great chance of winning, and our kids did an awesome job with it.”
The Trojans (5-2, 2-0) had the perfect weapon to unleash on the Cougars (6-1, 1-1), senior dynamo Dupree Hart. He threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 114 yards and two more scores. The Trojans piled up 525 offensive yards.
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“That’s the kind of effort you’ve got to come out and have when you have these types of games and I thought everyone did a good job,” said Hart.
When Hart wasn’t creating memories, it was sophomore running back Jerry Howard making fans smack each other on the arms in acknowledgment of a budding star. Stoutly built Howard finished with 142 total yards and three touchdowns, including a short swing pass he took 43 yards for a score with the help of a timely hurdle over a potential tackler.
“He’s a monster and you can see his athleticism,” said Richardson.
Northwestern’s fifth win in a row and 10th straight against York came in fairly dominant fashion. The Trojans never trailed and forced the Cougars to punt on nine of their 12 possessions.
York’s offense gummed up for the second week in a row at District Three Stadium. But after narrowly escaping Rock Hill last Friday, the Cougars, who were 3-for-13 on third down and only rushed for 78 yards, couldn’t keep pace with a methodical Northwestern offensive unit.
“We lost in the kicking game, we lost on offense, we lost on defense and we got out-coached,” York coach Bobby Carroll said as he walked toward his team’s buses. “I didn’t have these guys I guess ready to play. Northwestern’s got a good football team, they’re well-coached and they don’t make a lot of mistakes. And we just made mistake, after mistake, after mistake.”
Northwestern took a 21-12 lead into the half, but it blew the game out with 23 unanswered points. A short punt left the Trojans with good field position and they marched into York’s red zone, Hart scurrying in from 2 yards, before the Trojans defense forced another three-and-out from the Cougars. After a big third-down tackle for loss on York’s talented 10th-grader Wally Wilmore, Northwestern again got the ball in Cougars territory and marched down the field, Hart capping the drive with a 1-yard score to make it 35-12.
York’s offense couldn’t get moving. Carroll’s bunch punted on the first five possessions of the second half when the game slipped away. An often-overlooked Northwestern defense did its part.
“We gave up a couple of plays in the first half, they came in, made the adjustments and then it was a clinic defensively what our guys did in the second half,” said Richardson. “They got that cheap one on our backups, but our first team defense came in there second half and shut them down.”
With a swagger befitting reigning state champions, the Trojans jumped on the visitors quickly. Hart flipped an option pitch to Howard for a 4-yard score, before sophomore receiver D.J. Williams took advantage of York’s attention to Hart to slip behind the Cougars’ defense for a 69-yard touchdown pass and a 14-0 lead with 10 minutes left before the half. Wilmore caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Deshaw Andrews to make it 14-6, but Howard took a short swing pass, cleared a diving defender with an in-stride leap, and raced 43 yards for a touchdown and a 21-6 lead.
York’s Kyron Schrouder capped a nice drive just before halftime for York with a 21-yard touchdown catch and run, thanks to a missed tackle. But that would prove to be the high-water mark for the dispirited visitors, whose Thursday ended up very forgettable.