All year, the defense for the Northfield football team has played better than the raw results might suggest.
Tuesday, Nov. 17, when Northfield shut out Austin in a 17-0 victory in the final game of the season, the performance and the result ran parralel.
“Our defense has been our bright spot all year, so it was great for them to pitch a shutout tonight,” Northfield coach Bubba Sullivan said. “There’s a lot of kids that I think made a ton of plays. Mason Pagel had a great night I thought, Nick Mikula made several tackles for losses, Blake Mellgren continued to be really steady and at the end of the game Michael Rivera had an interception, which was great to see.”
Austin (0-7) mustered only 131 yards of total offense and the Raiders allowed Jack Ewing to complete only 6 of 21 passes for 60 yards.
After Northfield (1-6) entered halftime with a 3-0 lead thanks to a 31-yard field goal from senior Charlie Pratt, it altered its offensive strategy in the second half. The Raiders abandoned the passing attack almost entirely, instead opting to shift into a wishbone offense.
The multi-headed rushing attack worked, as Northfield strung together a pair of long scoring drives in the second half. In the third quarter, senior Josh Johnson capped off one of the them with a 25-yard touchdown run. In the fourth quarter, Mellgren put the game out of reach with a 3-yard touchdown run.
“Both those were good, long, sustained drives on the ground,” Sullivan said. “When we went to the wishbone it added an extra blocker for us, we got off the ball and made some things happen. Blake Mellgren ran really well in that.”
Mellgren finished with 59 yards on 10 carries, while Johnson added 54 yards on 13 carries and sophomore Charlie Monaghan picked up 29 yards on four rushing attempts.
Senior quarterback Cole Stanchina completed 3 of 6 passing attempts for 52 yards, while senior Ethan Lanthier hauled in two of those passes for 43 yards and senior Ian Stanton also finished with a 9-yard reception.
In addition to Rivera’s late interception, senior Josh Kruger also came away with a fumble recovery for the Raiders.
Austin did manage create more offense in the second half, but a pair of botched snaps on field-goal attempts wiped out potential scoring opportunities, as did a handful of timely Northfield defensive plays.
“Austin started to move the ball better but we made key plays when we needed to,” Sullivan said. “We’d get a sack here or there, or a tackle for loss.”