This group of seniors will be missed.
That much is for sure.
This spring, 19 seniors will graduate from Northwood knowing they've been part of the football team's best four-year run in school history--33-11 overall (33-7 in the regular season), four playoff appearances and three Toledo Area Athletic Conference titles.
And 2012 was the best season of them all.
The team went 10-1, won its second straight TAAC title and won eight of its games by at least 30 points. The Rangers averaged over 47 points per game and finished with 4085 yards of total offense, including 2971 yards rushing. On top of that, 13 players earned first-team league status.
|Northwood senior Evan Perkins gets off a punt.
(Press photo by Don Thompson/Facebook.com/
Quarterback Nick Russell led the way, completing 54-of-90 (60%) passes for 1085 yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions and carried the ball 75 times for 530 yards on the ground. He was the leader of a balanced rushing attack that saw four running backs, Dominik Bermejo, Jordan Shell, Anthony Prothero and Stephen Fuller, each finish with over 300 yards. Bermejo, whose brother Zach was a great running back with the Rangers two years ago, stood out. He ran 57 times for 351 yards and caught 13 balls for 328 yards and a team-high 17 touchdowns this season. And throughout the season, Shell, Prothero and Fuller helped to complement Bermejo and Russell in running the Wing-T offense.
The success of the rushing attack stems from the work of the men up front, who were led by senior center Justin Rohrs (6-foot-2, 258 pounds). Fellow seniors John Segura (6-1, 245) and David Bogart (6-4, 234) played left guard and left tackle, respectively, junior Travis Whitmore (5-11, 249) was the right guard and senior Kevin Baker (5-11, 246) served as the team's right tackle. This athletic group of big men were able to consistently exert their will on the defense and create holes for the backs.
Defensively, Northwood allowed just 8 points per contest and had 27 takeaways. Linebackers Nick Whitmore (6-0, 243) and Tyler Sheperd (5-9, 180) led the team in tackles, finishing with 114 and 85, respectively. Whitmore's 114 tackles led all area players and Bermejo's seven interceptions was also tops in the area.
Unfortunately, the Rangers, who finished the regular season as the sixth-ranked team in Division V, saw their season come to end last weekend when they fell to Patrick Henry, 20-19.
Head coach Ken James complemented the senior class.
“We felt like we could be good if we stayed healthy, worked hard and prepared,” said James, who just completed his 27th season with the team. “That was our biggest focus. We're always worried about being complacent (because) the kids had never been on a team that was bad. We worked really hard to battle that and make sure that didn't happen. We tried to make practice worse than the games, make it more challenging (so) that way the games would be easier. It would've been easier for them to say, 'We're seniors, we know how to do this.'
“And secondly, with their age and their experience, they learned how to be poised under pressure. Other teams (built) momentum and (got) fired up to play (us) every week. There was never any game where we melted down or we lost our composure. We did not have those kinds of problems; that's part of the reason we had such a good year. A lot of that credit goes to my coaching staff, helping (the players) keep their composure. I remember being down 7-0 to Hopewell-Loudon at halftime (in Week 3) and we ended up winning, 35-7.”
Despite having a number of great athletes, the team's success was a result of hard work, dedication and commitment to one another.
“The fun thing is that we all seemed to be on the same page during the season,” James said. “People weren't worried about getting their carries or their name in the paper – it's a huge part of whether or not you're successful, the (chemistry) between the coaches, players, offense, defense and the different grades. It wasn't a chore or a job, it was fun for them to play together.”
Two weeks ago, however, things were put into perspective when seniors Louis Woyame and Brandon Mahoney were injured in a terrible car accident. Fortunately, Woyame and Mahoney have been released from the hospital but are still recuperating from their respective injuries, a sign to the team and the community that, while it's frustrating to have the season end prematurely, there are more important things than winning football games.
With the team banquet coming up soon, James will be able to show the players and their families just how wonderful of an experience it was for him to coach this group.
“With 19 kids (in the senior class), you might have some kids that are on the team that don't play, but virtually all of our guys played,” he said. “That made 'em special in that regard. The majority of those kids have been playing together since elementary school. They're good kids who are fun to coach and they have personalities. The kids enjoyed playing the game of football and put a lot of extra time into making themselves good. What made the season so enjoyable was the fact that the group was so close-knit and got along with one another so well. We had a diverse group of kids who were fun to coach.”