Highlights from Northwestern 4A Division II state title win over Lexington
Northwestern entered Saturday’s 4A Division II state championship game having defeated Lexington in each of their three prior meetings, all in the playoffs.
Make it four.
Actually, make it five, the number of football state championships Northwestern has in its trophy cabinet. The Trojans never looked troubled in a 63-13 demolition of the Wildcats, the school’s third title since 2010.
Northwestern (14-1) struck first, capping a seven-play, 80-yard drive with a 15-yard scoring strike from Gage Moloney to Tyler Morgan. A 54-yard Miles Corpening pick-six and a five-yard jaunt from Moloney finished out a 21-point first quarter for the Trojans.
Lexington (13-2) got a four-yard touchdown toss from Donny Baker to Jason Rumph as the second quarter began, but the Trojans answered on an 11-yard throw from Moloney to Jerry Howard. Jamario Holley then took an inside screen 29 yards to pay dirt. A long Javion Blake punt return set up Howard’s second score of the half, a nine-yard run.
The Trojans’ 42-point first half represented the largest output allowed by Lexington in a game all season.
A nifty Brandon Blake fake handoff got the Lexington quarterback into the end zone from three yards out on the Wildcats’ second possession of the third quarter. Northwestern immediately struck back with Moloney hitting Jordan Starkes on a 74-yard toss that saw the sophomore receiver break numerous tackles before the final one led him into the end zone.
Moloney capped the night with his fifth passing touchdown, an 18-yard toss to the back of the end zone with 8:18 to play.
The title provided another Northwestern milestone. The Trojans’ 63 points tied the 1983 Blackville Hilda state champs for most points in a state title game, passing their own high of 62 against Stratford in 2013.
"We just felt like the kids were excited to play, and that was the biggest thing," said Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson. "They worked their tails off to get to this thing. We’re pretty happy to be taking another trophy home."
The game turned on one possession in the first quarter. After Northwestern’s first score, Lexington drove into the Trojan red zone. The Wildcats got as close as the one on a first-and-goal play, but the Trojans stopped Slade Carroll for a one-yard loss. A Blake pass fell incomplete, and after a holding penalty on Lexington, the Wildcats missed a 25-yard field goal attempt.
Northwestern got the pick-six from Corpening just over two minutes later.
"I think the hold on fourth down was huge, which allowed them to miss the field goal," said Richardson.
"Once we got the ball rolling on offense, it was kind of going from there, playing catch-up."
Lexington running back Slade Carroll entered the game with 2,006 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns.
Northwestern’s staunch rush defense held Carroll to 18 first-half yards on 12 carries, with a combination of the Trojan defenders and the score forcing the Wildcats to throw much of the second half.
"I’m really proud (of the defense)," said Richardson. "They had the pick-six, then another pick."
Richardson continued, "We’ve played great up front all year, and they showed up tonight in a big game and did the same thing."
Moloney threw for 135 yards in each half, accounting for six total touchdowns (five passing). "Gage just walks in and does what he does He’s a threat in the run game, he can hand the ball off and still keep people having to defend him in the run game, and then he can make the throws that we have to make," said Richardson. "For him to walk in three days before the season started and now to be standing on the Gamecock holding up a state championship trophy, that should tell you enough about that kid."
Jerry Howard carried 16 times for 148 yards and two scores, adding another on the beautiful over-the-shoulder throw from Moloney in the left corner of the end zone. "I just had to outrun them and catch the ball," said Howard. "That’s all I was thinking about."
Howard spoke after the game of the Trojans’ balanced attack, and how it has made both he and Moloney better. "Sometimes the linebackers just focus on him, and that leaves me wide open. I thank him for that."
NW – Tyler Morgan 15 pass from Gage Moloney (Karrington Prioleau kick), 10:11
NW – Miles Corpening 54 interception return (Prioleau kick), 4:43
NW – Moloney 5 run (Prioleau kick), 0:09
L – Jason Rumph 4 pass from Donny Baker (Christian Kinsley kick), 11:11
NHS – Jerry Howard 11 pass from Moloney (Prioleau kick), 7:35
NHS – Jamario Holley 29 pass from Moloney (Prioleau kick), 5:02
NHS – Howard 9 run (Prioleau kick), 2:42
L – Brandon Blake 3 run (kick blocked), 8:56
NHS – Jordan Starkes 74 pass from Moloney (Prioleau kick), 8:00
NHS – Howard 6 run (Prioleau kick), 4:23
NHS – Austin Hoofnagle 22 pass from Moloney (Prioleau kick), 8:18
RUSHING Northwestern Jerry Howard 16-148; Gage Moloney 8-40; Dequez Harris 1-0; Malik Hinton 4-15; Brandon Ashley 3-(-2). Lexington: Slade Carroll 16-26; Donny Baker 2-6; Ervin Green 2-3; Brandon Blake 4-5.
PASSING Northwestern: Gage Moloney 19-27-0, 275 yards. Lexington: Blake 16-29-3, 181 yards; Baker 5-6-1, 67 yards.
RECEIVING Northwestern: Grant Kirk 2-36; Tyler Morgan 2-30; Julian Shockley 4-29; Jordan Starkes 6-97; Jamario Holley 2-32; Howard 1-11; Austin Hoofnagle 1-18; Harris 1-22. Lexington: Jayson Hopper 10-88; Tyler Schadewald 4-82; Oscar Ferguson 2-5; Jason Rumph 3-54; Dai’Quan Wells 1-4; Trey Mitchell 1-15.
RECORDS Northwestern 14-1; Lexington 13-2