TUNNEL HILL — Northwest Whitfield coach Josh Robinson saw some good and some bad Friday night at Bruin Stadium.
But he stressed one thing — the Bruins cannot take the mistakes with them to Harmon Field for next week’s rivalry matchup with Dalton.
Northwest won its Sub-region 7B-4A opener 31-11 against Heritage-Catoosa after the Bruins’ defense did not allow a point until the final two minutes of the game.
But it was mistakes by Northwest (4-1) mistakes that allowed Heritage (0-5, 0-1) to lead early and more mistakes that left Robinson hoping for fixes.
On the Bruins’ first drive, a block in the back negated a long kickoff return by O’Shea Hill and they started from inside their 10-yard line. On third down, senior quarterback Silas Ledford was under pressure in the end zone and tried to throw the ball away, but it did not reach the line of scrimmage and the referees signaled a safety.
Exactly 53 seconds into the game, Northwest trailed 2-0.
“We can’t beat the next two teams making stupid mistakes,” said Robinson, whose Bruins follow the trip to Dalton with a home game against Ridgeland, which beat Dalton 48-21 on Friday. “Dalton High is a good football team. Ridgeland is a good football team. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We have to improve.”
Then, with less than two minutes to play and the Bruins ahead 31-2, a bad snap went over backup quarterback Caleb Shiflett’s head and resulted in another safety. On the Generals’ following possession, Northwest’s defense thought the whistle blew to halt a second-down play. It resulted in a 30-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Dylan Bice to Hunter Talley, when he slid by the stationary secondary for an easy score.
Northwest also had a fumble on a punt and five penalties for 35 yards.
However, it was a Silas Ledford-to-Hill combination that gave Northwest a lead, and the Bruins’ defense that kept it comfortable.
Ledford threw for four touchdowns, three to Hill, and more than 250 yards. Hill had 61 yards receiving on six receptions.
“They were letting me go inside of them all night,” Hill said.
Cody Hufstetler had the Bruins’ other touchdown on a 34-yard pass from Ledford, and Bryan Villa — who converted all of the PATs — added a 30-yard field goal.
Three times the Generals had the ball inside Northwest’s red zone, and all three times the Generals walked away without the scoreboard changing. With the Bruins ahead 14-2 in the second quarter, Heritage went on a 15-play, 77-yard drive from its own 17 to the Generals’ 6. However, a 23-yard field goal attempt from Adam Alhyege went wide right.
Then, with Northwest ahead 21-2, Heritage started the second half and marched 72 yards on 12 plays before a third-and-short run resulted in a loss of 5 yards. With the ball at the Bruins’ 25, the Generals faked a field goal that resulted in a 4-yard gain on the ground, nowhere near the first-down marker.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to get in the end zone,” Generals coach Tim James said. “I think we were in the end zone, what, three times tonight? We didn’t convert. We had a couple long field goal opportunities and decided to go for it.”
Northwest Whitfield 31, Heritage-Catoosa 11
Score by Quarters
Heritage 2 0 0 9 — 11
Northwest 14 7 7 3 — 31
How They Scored
HC — Safety, 11:07
NW — O’Shea Hill 7 pass from Silas Ledford (Bryan Villa kick), 6:44
NW — Cody Hufstetler 34 pass from Ledford (Villa kick), 2:24
NW — Hill 11 pass from Ledford (Villa kick), :32
NW — Hill 18 pass from Ledford (Villa kick), :15
NW — Villa 30 kick, 7:24
HC — Safety, 2:20
HC — Hunter Talley 30 pass from Dylan Bice, 1:35