By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – Against the ninth-ranked Northwest Rangers on Thursday night, the Northeast Tigers’ defense played with a lot of heart.
Played with a lot of intensity.
Just plain played a lot.
In fact, too much, as the Rangers wore down the determined Tigers defense, with Northwest eventually claiming a 26-6 victory in a key mid-season North Division contest.
“I feel like this group is getting better every week,” said Northwest defensive coordinator Andy Greening, a former coach at Northeast. “By far, this was our best performance on defense this season.”
In a contest where both defenses dominated play, the Northwest defense was an absolute beast.
Northeast’s leading rusher, Ripley’s Jaquise Cook, managed just 32 yards on the ground to lead the team. Tigers’ starting QB Clint Wilson passed for 48 yards.
The home team’s best offensive play of the evening was a 34-yard pass on a fake punt from Stevie Davis to Anthony Brown.
“Our defense played lights out,” Northeast head coach Ricky Smither said. “Our offense has a lot of work to do. Our defense played good enough to win.”
With both Northwest (5-0, 3-0) and Northeast (3-2, 2-1) leading the North Division coming into the game, a kicking contest ensued in the first half after the tigers squandered some early field position advantages.
Northwest went up 6-0 in the second quarter on field goals of 26 and 45 yards by Kevin Buford. NECC responded with a 37-yard field goal by Taylor Earhart.
Buford then added one more kick of 28 yards in the first half, for a 9-3 lead for the Rangers.
A little luck never hurts in a tight contest, and Northwest’s initial drive of the second half had that on a tipped ball that Xavier Lee hauled in for an 11-yard reception and a key first down. That set up QB Brent Osborn dumping a pass to Jay Jones that turned into a 16-yard gain and the game’s first touchdown for a 16-3 Northwest lead.
In response, Northeast’s fake punt help the Tigers on their best drive of the evening, moving the ball as deep as the Rangers’ 3-yard line. But the drive stalled, and Earhart chipped in a 19-yard field goal.
Northwest iced the win in the fourth period, beginning with a 27-yard field goal by Buford. Then another tipped Osborn pass netted a 7-yard TD to Jamal Mosley to finish the scoring.
Osborn managed 205 yards passing, while Jones had 86 yards rushing for the Rangers.