TUNNEL HILL —
Northwest Whitfield quarterback Caleb Shiflett says it is easy to take chances and have plenty of confidence when the group on the other end of the bench is always finding ways to make plays.
Friday night against River Ridge in a Region 7-4A crossover contest, it seemed as if it was the offense that was making all of the plays.
And Shiflett was at the point.
The junior threw for 333 yards on 17 of 22 attempts for five touchdowns — a new school record for touchdown passes according to coach Josh Robinson — as the Bruins improved to 4-0 on the year with a 54-14 thrashing of River Ridge. It was the second straight week that Northwest went over the 50-point plateau after a 52-35 win over Cass.
“Last week, the offense didn’t do as much and the defense really carried us in the game, both in shutting down Cass and in scoring some points,” Shiflett said. “Tonight, it just clicked for us on the offense from the first play.”
The first play of the game was a 61-yard go-route from Shiflett to Andy Whisenant, and the Northwest offense did little in the way of slowing down after that fast start. Jacob Webb had a pair of touchdown runs — 2 and 63 yards — in the first quarter, before Shiflett starting hitting his marks.
He and Whisenant connected for a 66-yard scoring pass to give Northwest a 21-0 lead with 4:59 left in the first quarter. Shifflett capped off a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 7-yard pass to Tevin McDaniel to give the Bruins a 28-0 lead at the half. And the show was just beginning for Shifflett and his receiving corps.
“As frustrating as last week’s big win over Cass was, this was a much more pleasing big win,” Robinson said. “We made a lot of mistakes last week, and we were probably as hard on the kids as we have been this year. We are starting to practice the way you should be at this time of the year, and it showed tonight on the field.”
Having thrown for 225 yards in the first half, Shifflett was a perfect 7 of 7 with three touchdown passes in the third quarter.
River Ridge was held to less than 60 yards of total offense in the first half, but the Knights showed some life to start the second.
Taking the opening kickoff of the third quarter, the Knights wasted little time, going 80 yards in four plays. E.J. Ellis had a 45-yard run to start the series, and quarterback Steven Spears hit DeShawn Franklin for the team’s biggest past of the night and a 24-yard gain. Ellis capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
But Northwest bounced right back and took three plays to go 64 yards. Shifflett connected this time with Connor Beard on the 25-yard scoring strike. He threw three touchdown passes in the third quarter, hitting Whisenant from a yard out and connecting with McDaniel again on a 15-yard scoring strike.
River Ridge (1-4) got back on the board with another 80-yard drive to close out the third quarter with Ellis scoring on a 6-yard run, but by that point, Northwest led 47-14 with a running clock through the fourth quarter. Alejandro Cornell capped off the scoring for the Bruins with a 3-yard plunge.
“You definitely want to have momentum at this time of the year,” Robinson said as his team prepares for the beginning of sub-region play next Friday at Heritage-Catoosa. “There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but we want the team to be confident going into this time of the year. A game like this where the offense and the defense play very, very well can give you that.”