MONTPELIER – After capturing at least a share of the Toledo Area Athletic Conference Title last Friday, their first league championship since 1983, all that was left for Montpelier was to top Northwood. With a win in the October 28th contest Montpelier would claim an outright title in their inaugural season in the TAAC. A victory over the Rangers would also more than likely assure the Locos of their first playoff berth since 1993. However Northwood, who themselves have won the TAAC ten times since its founding in 1999, were not about to make the long bus ride for nothing. On the contrary, the Rangers flexed their muscles and imposed their will on the hosts en route to a 37-13 triumph.
Northwood won the coin toss and chose to defer possession until the second half. Starting on offense first at their 41 yard line, Montpelier was held to a three and out and Evan Friend punted the ball to the Northwood 17.
From there, the guests needed 10 plays, and took a little over four minutes off the clock, to cover 83 yards for a touchdown. Trevor Mack toted the ball the final three yards for the score, and the PAT put Northwood on top 7-0.
Montpelier was able to bounce right back. Beginning at their 35, the Locos rattled off a 14 play, 65 yard drive. Kolden Uribes, Bryce Cooley, Austin Grubb, and Zac Mason all had carries. Quarterback Mason also connected with Uribes for 10 yards, and Colin Rockey for 15 more. On the first play of the second quarter, Cooley crossed the goal line from 4 yards out, and added the extra point kick as well to tie the contest 7-7,
Following the Loco score, Northwood gained a first down, but then punted the ball back to Montpelier. The home team marched the ball from their 39 yard line down to the Northwood 36. Then when faced with a fourth down and four, Mason rolled left looking to pass. However, when no receiver was open the quarterback was dropped for a five yard loss.
Suddenly, the Loco defense became the offense. On first down from the Northwood 41, Colin Rockey broke through the Northwood line, deflected the pitch from quarterback Tim Romstadt, and promptly scooped the pigskin off the turf. He then rambled untouched to the end zone for a touchdown. Although the kick was no good, the momentum quickly shifted in favor of the Locos as they took the lead 13-7.
However, the Rangers wasted no time answering. Starting from their 36, Northwood needed just 1:34 and four running plays, by four different runners, to hit pay dirt. Mack picked up his second TD of the night from 5 yards out. The kick made the score 14-13 in favor of the Rangers with 5:26 left before halftime.
The Locos struggles continued on their next series as well. Starting at their 32 yard line, Mason’s pitch to Michael Blake was mishandled. A Ranger defender pounced on the ball leaving the Rangers with a first and ten on Montpelier’s 26 yard line.
On first down, Cooley broke through the line to drop Romstadt for a four yard loss. However, from there Northwood continued to pound the ball on the ground. This time the Rangers moved 30 yards for a touchdown. The Loco defense didn’t help themselves much as they committed an offsides penalty on 3 down and 2, and on 4th and 4 from the 4 yard line Northwood lined up for a field goal attempt. Just before the ball was snapped, another encroachment penalty was whistled against the Locos. The infraction moved the ball to the 2 yard line prompting the Rangers to go for it. That’s exactly what they did as Cornelison plunged in for the TD. The extra point kick sailed wide left leaving Northwood up 20-13 with 2:10 remaining until halftime.
Now down by 7, and knowing that Northwood would be starting on offense to begin the third quarter, Montpelier went to hurry up mode in an attempt to add points before the intermission. For the second series of the night, Uribes started at quarterback, this time at the Locos 33 yard line. He quickly called his own number and after gaining 8 yards on first down, he added 12 yards on 2nd. However, a holding penalty, then a false start, moved the Locos all the way back to their 43 yard line. Mason came back in at quarterback and connected with Rockey for a 3 yard gain on first down. An incompletion to Blake on 2nd down left Montpelier facing a 3rd and 21. Grubb sprinted down the right sideline for a sizeable gain, just short of the first down. The elation quickly turned to bewilderment when the ball was stripped from Grubb and hit the turf for the second time on the night. Northwood jumped on the pigskin with just 1:20 left in the half. Taking over at their 30, and after moving the ball to the Loco’s 37, the half ended with Northwood leading 20-13.
Both teams went three and out to start the 3rd quarter. On their second possession, Northwood moved the ball in seven plays from their 18 yard line to the Montpelier 11. Facing 4th and 5, the Rangers added three more points with a 29 yard field goal to stretch the lead to 23-13 with 5:01 left in the quarter.
From that point on Montpelier’s offense was held in check by the Rangers as they were unable to advance the ball past midfield until their final possession of the night. Northwood continued to wear the Locos down on both sides of the ball. The Rangers scored touchdowns their final two possessions of the game to extend the final score to 37-13.
The loss puts an end to a memorable season for Montpelier, one that included the aforementioned conference title in their first year in the TAAC. Albeit bittersweet, the Locos have proven the move to the TAAC was a wise one with the share of a conference title with Gibsonburg. They also were very close to qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Maybe even more importantly this year’s edition of Locomotive Football has brought the pride and excitement back to the program.
The contest also marked the final game for 11 seniors. Those players are: Caleb Haines, Michael Blake, Zac Mason, Colin Rockey, Bryce Cooley, Scott Goodnight, Jared Armstrong, CJ Roth, Trevor Prekop, Nick Buehrer, and Jacob Earle. The young men were a huge part of the teams’ success this year. Although they will be sorely missed, the future continues to look bright for Montpelier Locomotive Football for next year, and the foreseeable future.
Kent Hutchison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org