MIDDLEBURY — These Northridge Raiders didn’t shy away from acknowledging that weighty losing streak that their high school football program had long been buried under against NorthWood, buried under seemingly as firmly as a Das Dutchman Essenhaus cinnamon roll buried under an Amish Acres round barn.
Because these Raiders appear so comfortable in their present that hearing about their past doesn’t even make them flinch.
Fittingly, they never did flinch Friday, Sept. 27, either, while whipping the Panthers 38-14 to punctuate Northridge’s homecoming celebration in a manner that no Raider team had celebrated any game in a quarter-century — by beating NorthWood.
“It’s the greatest feeling,” senior quarterback Tanner Love said after completing 6-of-7 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. “We haven’t done this in 25 years, and it’s only the second time ever, so it’s great.”
“Something like that’s always in the back of your mind,” junior running back Travis Schlabach said of the lopsided series history after scoring two TDs and rushing for 94 yards on 14 carries, “but we weren’t even alive the last time it happened. So, it doesn’t matter.”
Not anymore, anyway.
“We did talk about it Monday during our scouting report, and didn’t talk about it again until Thursday,” first-year Northridge coach Tom Wogomon said of the Panthers’ long-term dominance, “but, come on, it’s just a big known entity. And everyone was reminding them of that.”
Remind away. These Raiders played like they didn’t care.
“We knew this was coming,” Schlabach said of the victory. “We prepared all week to win. We practiced hard and knew exactly how we were going to do it.”
Northridge did it with clean (no turnovers, one penalty) and oft-dazzling play in all three phases.
The offense churned for 324 yards, four TDs and a field goal, helping the Raiders toward their best point total in 36 games, dating back to the 2010 opener. The special teams got an electric 90-yard kickoff return for a score from Payton Carson. And the defense shut out the Panthers in the second half.
“I think what really set the tone was the way our defense came out in the second half,” Schlabach said.
NorthWood trailed by a manageable 24-14 at the intermission and got the ball first to begin the third quarter, but two three-and-outs followed by just one first down on the Panthers’ third possession of the half kept the margin at double digits until Northridge stretched the gap with a pair of early-fourth-period TDs.
The Raiders improved to 5-1 overall, 3-1 in the Northern Lakes Conference, that 5-1 record good for the second-best start in Northridge history to 1975’s 6-0.
The hosts remained a game behind Concord in the NLC and will visit the Minutemen in two weeks, after welcoming Goshen next week.
The Panthers dropped to 3-3 and 1-3.
“They are a good football team,” NorthWood coach Scott Hoover said of Northridge. “They play hard. Offensively, defensively, special teams, they do the right things and are well-coached. They’re going to win some more ballgames.”
The Raiders bolted to a 10-0 lead by midway through the first quarter, scoring on each of their first two possessions, sandwiching a Panther three-and-out.
And when NorthWood, led by dual-threat quarterback Will Kirkwood, did pull to within three points twice in the second quarter, at 10-7 and 17-14, Northridge immediately answered each time with a touchdown of its own.
The first was on Carson’s TD return.
“The momentum was beginning to swing NorthWood’s way,” Wogomon said, “but Payton had a great wedge set for him, and got some downfield blocks.”
Then after the Panthers closed to that 17-14 count with 4:31 left in the opening half, Love calmly guided a nine-play, 56-yard drive over a span of 3:52, capped by his 15-yard TD pass to Cody Miller, stretching out in the end zone.
“I think that was kind of a pivotal drive,” Love said. “It gave us the momentum, moved the game toward our favor.”
“Tanner threw the ball well, the running game was there and the defense played a spectacular second half,” Wogomon said.
“This has been an absolute fun night,” the coach continued. “I’ll tell you what, our kids came out ready to play football. What a night for them. This is what high school football’s all about. We had unbelievable crowd support, and for these guys to get that monkey off their back, 25 years, it’s a special moment.”
Northridge’s only other win the series had come on Sept. 23, 1988, at NorthWood by a 14-7 count.
Since then, the Panthers had won 29 straight times to build a 38-1 series lead, including victories in all five playoff meetings.
NorthWood was 22-0 in Middlebury, too, and had posted 15 shutouts overall against the Raiders. Just four of the Panthers’ wins had come by single digits.
Northridge 38, NorthWood 14
Scoring by Quarters
NorthWood 0 14 0 0 — 14
Northridge 10 14 0 14 — 38
School — Scoring Play
Nr — Hunter Hardin 25 field goal, 8:44.
Nr — Travis Schlabach 35 run; Hardin kick, 5:18.
NW — Will Kirkwood 19 run; Connor Miller kick, 9:47.
Nr — Payton Carson 90 kick return; Hardin kick, 9:32.
NW — Luke Edwards 10 pass from Kirkwood; Miller kick, 4:31.
Nr — Cody Miller 15 pass from Tanner Love; Hardin kick, 0:38.
Nr — Schlabach 3 run; Hardin kick, 11:22.
Nr — Craig Kasten 1 run; Hardin kick, 8:55.
Team Statistics NW Nr
Net yards rushing 73 219
Net yards passing 161 105
Total Yards 234 324
First Downs 14 15
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties 2-18 1-5
NorthWood: Rushing — Will Kirkwood 7-31, Luke Edwards 6-30, Tanner Cleveland 10-12. Passing — Kirkwood 18-31-161 (0 int.). Receiving — Trent Sauceda 6-58, Trent Sellers 4-27, Zach Schwartz 2-23, Cleveland 2-20, Devon Hunsberger 1-12, Travis Bear 1-11, Edwards 2-10.
Northridge: Rushing — Travis Schlabach 14-94, Cam Ridenour 13-80, Dean Ridenour 4-16, Tanner Love 4-15, Craig Kasten 3-14. Passing — Love 6-7-105 (0 int). Receiving — Jailyn Rolle 2-47, Payton Carson 1-37, Cody Miller 1-15, Schlabach 2-6. Fumble recovery — Miller.