By Matthew Peaslee
Norwayne rolled over Northwestern. Norwayne crushed Liberty. Norwayne had its hands full with Brookfield on Friday night.
After outscoring their first and second round opponents, 102-14, the Bobcats had to fend off a strong second half by the Warriors before winning the Division IV regional final, 49-28 at Stow’s Bulldog Stadium.
“We didn’t think that we were going to lose for a second,” Brookfield linebacker Derek Sulick said. “The whole time we had the mentality that we were going to win.”
Norwayne (13-0) jumped out to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter. QB Joe Dreher completed his first four passes and RB Jon Zimmerly kept a consistent ground attack from the start. The quick tempo fooled Brookfield (12-1).
“That was definitely the fastest team we’ve gone against, including their team from last year,” Sulick said. “We weren’t exactly winded, but we were having trouble getting our calls in so we were standing around half the time. It’s hard to adjust like that.
“We didn’t come out in the first half how we usually come out and that’s probably why we lost.”
Dreher finished with 428 passing yards, completing 30 of 46 passes. He threw six touchdowns.
“Our offense played well under pressure,” Norwayne coach Joe Harbour said. “Brookfield brought a lot of guys on the quarterback and we adjusted to that very well.”
The Warriors did have four sacks, including two by Sulick in the second half. But Dreher stole the show. He had a long pass of 70 yards with three that went for over 30 and four that went for over 20. He had five different receivers and two, Brady Berger and Kaleb Harris had more than 100 receiving yards.
On the other side, Jeremy Quinlan improved after a quiet second half. He hit Colin Harkulich for two touchdown passes of 55 and 12 yards as the Warriors closed to within 21 points midway through the third quarter. They got the ball back early in the fourth quarter and drove into the red zone threatening to score again, but a lost fumble derailed the comeback. The Bobcats answered with a 78-yard scoring drive.
“We all said we could win this game,” Brookfield coach Randy Clark said. “If they don’t score on that one series I’d like to have seen what would happen. Our kids fought to the end and they’re still fighting now. It was a phenomenal effort. We didn’t quit. These kids never quit for me.”
Ryan Mosora opened the scoring for Brookfield with a 16-yard TD run in the second quarter. He finished with 81 yards on nine carries. “They got some very good defensive linemen,” Clark said. “We ran the ball very little in the first half. They did a great job stopping it.”
Mosora also caught two passes for 33 yards. Harkulich caught five passes for 119 yards and Jimmy Quinlan caught three passes for 38 yards, including a 15-yard TD grad with 5:51 remaining in the fourth quarter.