Twenty-two years had passed since the last time Northwest started the season without a win after the first two games.
A change was needed for Friday’s game against East.
“We felt like we have to establish a toughness about us before districts,” Northwest coach Weston Schartz said.
Northwest certainly gained some in its 21-6 victory at Heights — the Grizzlies first win on the season.
“We wanted to hammer the ball up inside and play good defense and stop the run,” Schartz said.
Consider all three tasks achieved.
Northwest (1-1 league, 1-2 overall) rarely strayed from running between the tackles in racking up 229 yards on 53 carries.
On the flip side, the East backfield never broke through the line and finished with five yards on 11 carries. Quarterback Desmond McGee ran for 35 yards, mostly on scrambles. It was the first loss of the year for the Aces (2-1, 2-1).
“We lost the battle on the line of scrimmage,” East coach Brian Byers said. “The game was won and lost right there. They controlled the line of scrimmage.”
On the opening drive of the game, the Blue Aces were able to neutralize their disadvantage on the line with their passing game.
McGee started the game completing his first five passes for 74 yards to set up C.J. Graham’s 1-yard touchdown plunge.
Adjustments were made by the Northwest defense, forcing McGee into 16 incompletions — including two interceptions — the rest of the game.
“Linebackers dropping back, they didn’t blitz as much, they knew what routes we were running,” McGee said. “They were good.”
Meanwhile, Northwest steadily moved the ball. The Grizzlies’ longest run was 18 yards, but they averaged over four yards per carry.
After six straight rushes on its first drive, Northwest tied the game on a 25-yard play-action pass from Cedrick Jay to Cory Cuda for a 7-6 lead.
The score remained that way before Northwest opened the third quarter on a 13-play, 62-yard touchdown drive. All 13 plays were runs, capped by Cuda’s 2-yard score.
“We were hungry for it,” said Wallace, who led the team with 72 yards. “We were tired of losing. We came out ready to do it and we manned up and did everything.”
Northwest linebacker Jacob Davis sealed the victory with a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown, running over two would-be tacklers on his way into the end zone.
Neither team scored in the fourth quarter.
“I wasn’t going down,” Davis said. “I had to get that touchdown, I had to put the knife in them and end it.”
Northwest (1-1, 1-2) 7 0 14 0 — 21
East (2-1, 2-1) 0 0 0 0 — 0
E—Graham 1 run (Galarza kick blocked)
NW—Cuda 25 pass from Jay (Mills kick)
NW—Cuda 2 run (Mills kick)
NW—Davis 24 interception return (Mills kick)
Rushing—Northwest, Wallace 18-72, Cuda 13-50, Terrell 6-30, A. Thurman 4-20, T. Thurman 3-19, Thompson 2-17, Jay 6-14, Gaddis 0-14. East, McGee 11-35, Graham 7-10, Martin 3-(-2), Sparr 1-(-3).
Passing—Northwest, Wiedemann 4-9-53-0, Jay 2-2-34-0. East, McGee 12-28-144-2.
Receiving—Northwest, Cuda 2-34, Ruttona 1-24, Geddis 1-20, Cornado 2-9. East, Sparr 6-47, Graham 2-45, McFann 2-41, Brandon 2-11.