For once, it wasn’t such a long walk for Northridge.
The Raiders, who make a quarter-mile march from the new high school up the hill to the football field and back after each game, finally had a spring in their step for the return trip.
Being soaked to the skin and covered in grass stains and mud probably never felt so good.
Coach Jonathan Kirkton wasn’t about to make a long, drawn-out post-game talk.
After all, what do you need to say to a team which hadn’t won in two seasons?
“Not a whole lot. Honestly, I’ve made a lot of speeches in the last two years,’’ Kirkton said this week. “I just wanted them to enjoy.’’
Prior to the Raiders’ first on-field win in 20 games, the talks were difficult at best.
“Those speeches are never easy to make,’’ Kirkton said. “But I wanted them to enjoy that moment. They haven’t had it for awhile.”
Angola gave Northridge all it could handle for four quarters and this time, the Raiders withstood the challenge. It was a nice rebound for a team which watched a 12-0 halftime lead evaporate against Memorial in its regular-season finale.
The Raiders, who always bring a fight to the field, fought off a challenge. Talent, skill and experienced numbers often seem to wane in Middlebury, but if you ask any head coach in the NLC, they’d tell you that Northridge brings a tooth-and-nail spirit to the table each Friday night — won-loss records aside.
On the scoreboard, Northridge earned a sectional semifinal slot tonight opposite Concord, which blew Northridge away by a 56-28 count three weeks ago.
Within themselves, the Raiders earned some personal satisfaction and finally saw their persistence pay off in triumph.
“We had to make some stops. We got up early, but what really hurt us was missing extra points,’’ Kirkton said. “It was nice to see the kids finish. We ended up stopping them enough.”
And for once, Central’s defense made enough stops.
The Blue Blazers, who’ve taken lumps on the defensive side of the ball at times this fall, held the high cards in last week’s 17-13 slugfest with rival Memorial.
There weren’t huge celebrations after the game and there wasn’t much joy in the locker room after Central’s 10-7 halftime lead.
“We had to tell them, “Guys, we’re up.’ The guys were not happy at all,’’ said Levon Johnson, the Blazers’ head coach. “We told them to go out and finish it.”
Central also would like to finish matters up with Adams. The Eagles won their NIC meeting 21-7, which also came three Fridays ago.
“Memorial gave us a bunch of shots, and we let some opportunities slip through our fingers. Our kids showed a great deal of fight,’’ Johnson said. “The defense stepped up to the plate and handled it.”
Now the Blazers and Raiders have chance to redeem themselves.
There’s never room for revenge games in athletics. If you step on the field carrying the revenge mantra on your sleeve, you’re opening yourself for a substantial letdown.
Johnson called this week a “stay-together game” — a 48-minute test of your character and desire, he said.
Central has experienced success already and knew the feeling of winning.
Northridge didn’t, but it does now. Good for those kids who’ve toughed it out and held their ground.
It’s a stay-together game for every football team from here until Indianapolis.
Bill Beck can be contacted at email@example.com