The best way to find value in criticism is to do something about it.
Northwest’s defense, especially in comparison to Friday night’s opponent, Kapaun Mount Carmel, hasn’t been stellar. And football coach Steve Martin has noticed those who have pointed that out.
Northwest’s response came in a 26-14 win at Cessna Stadium, as the Grizzlies held Kapaun scoreless for the final 26 minutes. Northwest held onto its late lead with a fumble recovery and an interception in the fourth quarter.
Those didn’t overshadow 181 receiving yards from Jaxson Reynolds and another strong showing from the backfield duo of Breece Hall and Roy Johnson. But the defense gave Northwest (4-1) a balance it hadn’t previously achieved.
“I think they’re sick of people talking about (how) our defense has been weak for a couple years,” Martin said. “Those young guys, all those guys played last year. It’s about growing up and playing hard for each other. The coaches have done a great job getting those guys ready on that side of the ball.”
Kapaun had allowed six points during its 4-0 start and Northwest, though improved since a season-opening 40-35 loss to Bishop Carroll, had surrendered 96 points through four games.
Northwest was playing without star defensive end Marcus Hicks, who sat out as a precaution with an ankle injury, but their defense hardly seemed lacking. After two second-quarter scoring drives, Kapaun lost its versatility.
Nick Channel, who didn’t score either touchdown, ran for 130 yards, but quarterbacks Jack Hacking and Scott Valentas were inconsistent and the other six players who received a carry combined for 28 yards.
“We missed a lot of tackles against Carroll and we’ve corrected that,” Martin said. “I’m proud of them. That was a team win tonight and without that (defense), we wouldn’t have won. In the past, we would have had to get into a 50-point shootout. We’ve got some guts and I’m just proud of those guys.”
Hall and Johnson combined for 258 rushing and receiving yards, but as the game progressed Northwest relied more heavily on Reynolds, who was especially important in the second half.
Reynolds accounted for 181 of Austin Anderson’s 278 passing yards – Johnson had the other 97 – and caught a 64-yard third-quarter touchdown to put Northwest ahead 19-14. Reynolds had a 41-yard catch to set up Northwest’s final score.
“It was actually supposed to be a double route,” Reynolds said of his long touchdown. “But the corner(back), he came to it too fast, so I just cut it up early. The safety wasn’t paying any attention to me, so my quarterback just made a beautiful pass and dropped it over the shoulder.”
Northwest has won four straight and has discovered its defense can keep pace with its multi-faceted offense.
“You better sell out on the run. Breece is averaging 200-some yards a game and Roy has 150 all-purpose (per game) or something,” Martin said. “Jaxson played big tonight, I’m very proud of him in the passing game. Austin was struggling with his reads but he had a big night throwing the ball.
“Without our defense, though, we don’t win that game tonight.”
Northwest 0 13 6 7 – 26
Kapaun Mount Carmel 0 14 0 0 – 14
NW—Benoit 23 FG
K—Phelps 2 run (Williams kick)
NW—Hall 12 run (Benoit kick)
K—Schmitz 26 pass from Hacking (Williams kick)
NW—Benoit 27 FG
NW—Reynolds 64 pass from Anderson (pass failed)
NW—Anderson 11 run (Benoit kick)
Rushing—Northwest, Hall 25-120, Johnson 8-41, Anderson 10-32; Kapaun, Channel 19-130, Phelps 4-17, Perkins 5-9, Valentas 4-2, Mills 1-2, Ferraro 1-(-1), Hacking 8-(-1).
Passing—Northwest, Anderson 12-26-278-1 INT; Kapaun, Hacking 9-23-141-1, Valentas 3-5-36-0.
Receiving—Northwest, Reynolds 9-181, Johnson 3-97; Kapaun, Williams 3-34, Hutton 2-59, Schmitz 2-36, Nye 2-33, Valentas 1-8, Ferraro 1-4, Channel 1-3.