HARTFORD CITY — It took Northwestern nearly an hour and a half to make the trek to Blackford on Friday night, but the Tigers’ D needed only a couple minutes to put the Bruins out of reach.
In its first-ever game against Blackford, Northwestern overcame a slow start in its Class 3A Sectional 28 first round game at Bruin Field to run away with a 42-17 win.
In a sectional bracket loaded with ranked contenders, the Tigers (7-3) will host No. 4-ranked Yorktown (9-1), a 21-20 winner over Eastbrook on Friday, in next week’s semifinal round.
“Coming in, there were a lot of good teams in this sectional and the good thing is, half of them are done now,” Northwestern coach John Hendryx said. “We get to play another week and we’re glad to have that opportunity.”
Nursing a 7-0 lead one quarter in, the Tigers’ defense took advantage of several Bruins mistakes over the next 12 minutes as Northwestern exploded for 28 points to go up 35-0 at the half and essentially put the game on ice.
Blackford fumbled on its first possession of the second quarter but the Tigers gave the ball right back, coughing it up three plays into its ensuing drive.
The Bruins couldn’t capitalize and were forced to punt on a quick three-and-out. Keagan Downey busted through the line to block the punt and Billy Parslow scooped up the ball and raced 38 yards for six points to set off the second quarter scoring frenzy with 7:30 to play in the half.
“We were a little flat out of the gate,” Hendryx said. “Not having school [Friday] and being on that bus for an hour and 20 minutes, I was kind of afraid that might happen. Then Keagan blocked that punt and kind of got us our momentum back. From that point on it just raised us emotionally and we put it away in a hurry.”
Two plays into Blackford’s next drive, Tiger senior Evan Matlock snagged Bruin QB Trace Oswalt’s pass attempt and trotted 20 yards for a pick-six.
Blackford (1-9) fumbled on its next possession and the Tigers recovered. From the Bruin 28, Northwestern needed just three plays before Curtis Townsend ran eight yards and pitched to Tanner Wildrick, who took it in one yard for the score to make it 28-0 at 6:04.
Wildrick finished with two TDs. Sophomore Tim Blankenberger also added a pair of scores. His one-yard scamper with :42 to play in the half closed out the Tigers’ second-quarter offensive assault that left the hosts reeling. He added a two-yard run late in the third to put Northwestern up 42-0 heading into the final frame.
Blackford closed the game with 17 unanswered points, but it was with the majority of Northwestern’s starters watching from the sidelines.
“It was good to get our defense off the field and rest our starters in the second half and give other guys opportunities to play,” Hendryx said. “The final score is irrelevant, we were glad to get the rest. Once we woke up a little bit, the kids took care of things pretty quick in the second quarter.”
Keegan Fessenden finished with 62 yards on five carries, while Townsend ran for 60 yards on eight totes. Both seniors put those numbers up in just 24 minutes of action.