Northeastern shuts out Clinton, advances to third round
Northeastern 35 Clinton 0
By Craig Moyer
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Northeastern held a 14-0 lead to start the second half, but Clinton’s offense came out and pounded the ball down the field, going 60 yards in nine plays down to Northeastern’s one yard line.
The Dark Horses looked poised to cut the deficit in half and end the the Eagles’ shutout streak, which dates back to the regular season.
Northeastern’s defense stood tall, holding Clinton out of the end zone after a penalty and four unsuccessful plays, giving the ball back to their offense.
Two plays later, Traveon Freshwater tore down the near sideline for a 90-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a 21-0 lead.
Northeastern (13-0) went on to win the game 35-0 over Clinton (6-6) Friday night at Northeastern Athletic Complex to advance to the 2A east regional semifinal, where they will host Wallace-Rose Hill.
With the Eagles’ high-powered offense, it is not often you see them shutout in a quarter, but that was the case in the opening quarter Friday night, as the first quarter ended with a scoreless tie.
Early in the second quarter, Freshwater broke free for his first rushing touchdown of the night from 26 yards out to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
Later in the quarter, J.R. Walker punched in a four-yard touchdown run to give Northeastern a 14-0 lead heading into the locker room.
The running duo of Freshwater and Walker wore down the Dark Horses’ defense throughout the night, as they finished the game with a combined 381 yards rushing and each scored a pair of touchdowns.
Freshwater led the way with 253 yards, while Walker finished with 128 yards.
Northeastern head coach Antonio Moore said once he realized how well the running game was working against Clinton’s defense, so he stuck with the ground game.
“We had to change our game plan on offense and I guess they did not prepare for it and we took advantage,” Moore said.
After the Eagles’ defense stood tall with their backs against their own end zone, then Freshwater’s long touchdown run, the air seemed to come out for the Dark Horses.
Northeastern’s defense has been dominant all season, but has stepped up to play even better in the playoffs, as they have not allowed a point in either of their playoff games.
The unit has not allowed a score since Oct. 27 against First Flight, as they have recorded three consecutive shutouts.
On Friday, the Eagles defense was led by Malikh Combs and Freshwater, who each finished with a team-high nine tackles.
Freshwater also added one sack, as Jorell Baum added one sack for the Eagles.
Northeastern took a 21-0 lead into the final quarter and made sure the Dark Horses had no chance for a comeback.
Early in the fourth quarter, Dallas Hall connected with Nolan Hodge on a 10-yard touchdown pass to take a 28-0 lead.
Hall finished the game 150 yards through the air, while also rushing for 39 yards.
Walker wrapped up the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run later in the quarter to bring the final score to 35-0.
Parker Betts added the extra point on all five scores, going 5-5 for the night kicking extra points.
One thing Moore has stressed over the last few weeks, his the team is not going to get complacent and will continue to look to improve.
“We just need to get better each week, defense needs to get better, offense needs to get better,” Moore said. “We will see what we need to do to be successful against Wallace-Rose Hill and go from there.”
Northeastern will host fifth seeded Wallace-Rose Hill, who advanced with a 56-0 win over Beddingfield, in the east regional semifinal Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m.