Three rushing touchdowns by Carson Cassetty and two receiving touchdowns by Brandon Thomas led the Northwest Vikings to a 34-26 victory over the Western Guilford Hornets on Friday night in R.L. Billings Stadium.
The first quarter was a quiet one, and it appeared from the first twelve minutes of play that this game would be a low-scoring affair. That assumption turned out to be completely incorrect when four of the nine total touchdowns came in the second quarter.
The opening score of the game came when the Vikings got the ball with two minutes remaining in the first quarter and drove down the field to the six yard-line on the last play of the first quarter. On the opening play of the second quarter, Cassetty ran through the middle and scored, putting the Vikings up 7-0.
Western answered a couple of drives later, but then the Vikings went to work.
Brandon Thomas’ first touchdown reception of the night came with 3:41 to play in the first half, and Cassetty burst through Western’s massive line, scoring his second touchdown of the night. That score came with just 1:27 to play in the second quarter.
Northwest’s Cam Carter struggled to control the ball in the game, fumbling twice. The second fumble came on the opening kickoff of the second half when he returned the ball to the Northwest 20 and eliminated a possession for the Vikes, which turned into a one-play score by the Hornets. Dante Bovian dragged several defenders into the end zone on the Hornets’ first play of the third quarter to pull within a touchdown. The score was 21-14.
The Vikings were undeterred, and, again, Cassetty pulled off a touchdown run. The kick failed, and the score was 27-14.
The Hornets immediately responded to the Northwest score. They embarked on an eight-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in an 11-yard touchdown pass from Robbie Boyd to Kevin Boele. Western’s kick also failed, and the score was 27-20.
The two teams traded touchdowns in the final quarter. Brandon Thomas caught his second touchdown pass of the night from Micah Salmon, making the score 20-34. Western scored a mere one minute and 20 seconds later when Boyd connected with Eric Lewis for a 25-yard touchdown.
The Hornets fooled everyone when they didn’t attempt an onside kick after the touchdown and elected to pooch kick. The ball went out of bounds and Northwest took over on the Western 45. After an unsuccessful attempt to move the ball down the field, the Vikings punter, Cameron Tippett, punted the ball to the Western three-yard line. Boyd threw an interception on fourth down with 36 seconds remaining to DeWayne Johnson, and the Vikings took a knee to seal the victory.
The Hornets committed several more penalties than the Vikings, and several key players suffered from cramping, possibly because of dehydration and having to play on both sides of the ball because the team is so thin.
Western coach Brian Terwilliger believes that his team is on the brink of turning around the program.
“I told them in the huddle, ‘This one hurts.’ It hurts because we have a talented team and we’re going to win some games, but I’m proud of them. We’re right there. We’re right at the corner to get Western (football) back to respectability.”
Time will tell if the team will indeed turn that corner.
As for his touchdown trifecta, Carson Cassetty gave credit to his coaches.
“The O-line helped me a lot by opening up really big holes,” he said. I’ve been putting in a lot of work in practice. Coach told me to cut it back inside instead of going to the outside. I listened to him, and he was right.”
Cassetty explained how the Vikings held off the Hornets when they were up by just a touchdown.
“We struggled a little bit, but we dug deep. DeWayne Johnson with that pick sealed the win for us.”
Brandon Thomas gave credit to his quarterback for his touchdown receptions: “They were great throws by Micah. I’m just glad that he could find me in the end zone. We saw the safety moved over, and I told Micah if the safety moves over throw it to me, and he found me.”
Northwest head coach Kevin Wallace spoke about the effort that his team put in.
“Carson Cassetty plays both ways for us and is a good downhill runner. Brandon Thomas was a play-maker last year and we saw more of that tonight. They both came to play a little bit more, and Brandon got more touches this week than he did last week and that’s good because he can really stretch the field and make plays when he touches it.”
The coach talked about how his team held on when Western threatened.
“I think we finally just settled down a little bit at the end. We calmed them down. They made their checks and stood their ground on the last couple of drives in the fourth.”
Northwest is now (2-0) on the season and travels to Southeast Guilford next week.
Western falls to (1-1) and travels to Rockingham County High School next Friday night.
(NWG) Carson Cassetty 6 run (Cameron Tippett kick)
(WG) Jamyr Jeffries 1 run (Robbie Boyd kick)
(NWG) Brandon Thomas 5 pass from Micah Salmon (Tippett kick)
(NWG) Cassetty 2 run (Tippett kick)
(WG) Dante Bovian 20 run (Boyd kick)
(NWG) Cassetty 24 run (kick failed)
(WG) Kevin Boele 11 pass from Boyd (kick failed)
(NWG) Thomas 4 pass from Salmon (Tippett kick)
(WG) Eric Lewis 25 pass from Boyd (kick failed)
NORTHWEST STAT LEADERS
Carson Cassetty: 26 carries, 154yds, 3TD
Brandon Thomas: 6 receptions, 49yds, 2TD
WESTERN STAT LEADER
Dante Bovian: 15 carries, 126yds, TD