For Northwest Whitfield High School’s football team, Friday night’s win wasn’t attractive anywhere except on the scoreboard.
Despite a performance Bruins coach Josh Robinson simply called “ugly,” Northwest beat Cass 52-35 at Doug Cochran Stadium.
The Bruins (3-0) scored the first 31 points and never let the Colonels (2-2) within 17 the rest of the game. However, the Bruins committed five turnovers and allowed a potential rout to become a frustrating experience.
“It was the most miserable big lead I’ve ever had in my life,” Robinson said.
Northwest’s defense countered with six turnovers, however, and spent a lot of time celebrating in the Cass end zones.
Five of the takeaways were interceptions and Northwest defenders brought back three of those for touchdowns, starting with linebacker Blake Ownbey jumping a screen pass on Cass’ second possession. The extra point gave Northwest a 10-0 lead with 8:18 left in the first quarter. Tevin McDaniel intercepted a Trevor Lowe pass on the next possession.
The Bruins picked up their first offensive score when Jacob Webb’s 2-yard run gave them a 17-0 edge.
On the final play of the opening quarter, Tyler Clayton returned the Bruins’ third interception for a touchdown and 24-0 lead.
“The first quarter looked pretty good, right?” Robinson asked rhetorically.
The domination continued into the next period. Clayton had his second pick on the next possession and set up another Webb touchdown run. But ahead 31-0, something went wrong for Northwest.
“It doesn’t matter how big a lead is in the first half, it’s not over,” Robinson said. “It became a football game ... because we played stupid.”
Cass’ next possession ended in a 9-yard touchdown run by Keelyn Wilkey. Then Northwest quarterback Caleb Shiflett threw the second and third of his three interceptions on the next two Northwest possessions. That allowed Cass to take advantage of the short field to trim the lead to 31-14 on a Colin Rogers 8-yard scoring run with two minutes left before halftime.
The teams combined for nine first-half turnovers.
“Everyone thought we’d win,” said defensive end Caleb Bowie, who recovered a first-quarter fumble. “We just took our foot off the throttle.”
Andy Whisenant then had an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and gave Northwest a 38-14 lead, but Cass’ Chaz Rokins scored on the ground from 42 yards right before the half ended.
“We played a lot of snaps on defense because we scored a lot on defense,” Robinson said.
The second half included fewer turnovers and less drama.
The Colonels’ first second-half possession ended when Jamon Horne intercepted another pass and returned it for another defensive score. Webb scored for a third time with 5:13 left in the third quarter and gave the Bruins a 52-21 lead.
“In the third quarter, I thought the defense did better,” Robinson said.
Webb had the best night of any Bruin on offense. He rushed 19 times for 102 yards.
Shiflett went 10-for-23 passing for 91 yards and Kyle Fleming rushed eight times for 51 yards.
The Northwest defense held Cass to 99 yards passing, and a good chunk of the 234 rushing yards came against the Bruins’ second string, which played the entire fourth quarter.
On the Colonels’ first possession, the Bruins defense forced them back 6 yards and Clay Phillips blocked a punt at the Cass 1. Northwest settled for a 20-yard field goal from Miguel Villa.