NORTHWOOD – Take a trip back through the archives to 2005, the year that the Hilltop Cadets’ football program joined the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, and you will see a consistency that is all too familiar in Cadet Country. Eight games, and eight years of trying, Hilltop has never beaten the Northwood Rangers. They’ve come close, but even in the years that the Cadets had playoff-bound teams, the schedule had an ‘L’ next to the Northwood game at the end of the season.
Northwood brings nothing new or surprising to each game, only new players who have taken up where others have departed via graduation. The Northwood option offense remains the same…highly effective, and operated with the greatest of slight-of-hand chicanery. When the Rangers welcomed in the Cadets on October 4, the 1-5 Cadets brought plenty of moxie with them, but that alone was not enough to stave off a 55-20 defeat and an 0-9 record against the Rangers.
With Quinn Smith under center, the Hilltop offense has become more aggressive and diverse…a good thing. What is not such a good thing is that Smith, a freshman, is learning the quarterback position under game fire. The growth is obvious, but the inexperience factor is frequently exploited by opposing defenses. This came to light very quickly in the game as Smith was picked off at the Hilltop 18, and the ball returned for a pick-six. Northwood was up 7-0 with 10:33 left in the first.
The Rangers got a sampling of the stuff Smith brings to the table early in the second period, as a Smith to Logan Brooker pass from 13 yards out tied the game at 7-7. The Cadets saw their momentum wiped away on the ensuing kickoff though, as the returner blew through the Hilltop special teams unit for 80 yards and the touchdown that put the Rangers up by a 14-7 score. That lead would never be threatened as Northwood added two more touchdowns within ten seconds of each other to close out the half with a 28-7 lead.
The hometown boys blew the game open with three unanswered touchdowns in the third and another in the fourth to open up a 48-7 lead. David Smith brought Hilltop closer with a ten-yard touchdown run to make it 48-13, but Northwood replied with a touchdown with 2:42 left to make it a 55-13 game. Smith closed out the scoring with another ten-yard run with 1:19 remaining.
Hilltop outrushed Northwood 224-200, and held possession for more than three minutes longer. The offense has proven that they can indeed move the ball. It is simply a matter of consistency in moving the ball, while preventing the opposition from doing the same.
Quinn Smith finished the night with 12 of 26 passing for 89 yards, a touchdown and a pick. Zack VanDyke caught a pass for 31 yards, while Brooker had 3 for 20 and a touchdown. Justin Grapengeter caught 2 passes for 15 yards, and ran once for 3 yards. Austin Batt reeled in 2 for 11 yards; Mikel Burlew had a catch for 5 yards; Dallas Timberman caught a pass for 4 yards, and Chad Champion caught 2 for 3 yards.
David Smith ran 6 times for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead Hilltop. Miklo Abner gained 66 yards on 14 tries; Champion went 6 times for 35 yards, and Quinn Smith ran 11 times for 10 yards.
The Cadets return home on October 11, where they will find their archrivals, the Edon Bombers, awaiting.