MCDERMOTT – Zane Gilley’s eyes watched it all the way.
With the game in the balance, the 5-foot-9 junior picked off a fourth-down pass at the 5-yard line with 1:35 to go to secure Northwest’s 21-20 win over Portsmouth in the first round of the Division V Region 19 playoffs on Saturday at Roy Rogers Field.
“We knew they were going to throw it deep,” said Gilley, who picked off two of Portsmouth quarterback Drew Roe’s passes. “(Roe) threw it up there and my eyes got really big because I saw it coming my way. I jumped up and grabbed it by the goal line. Man, what a great feeling.”
Northwest (6-1) stiffened up on the final drive by Portsmouth (1-6) and forced a fourth-and-21 from the Northwest 22 that led to the interception. Mohawk defensive lineman Hunter Townsend made a big play when he sacked Roe for a seven-yard loss to force the fourth down.
“He was fast all night long,” Townsend said of Roe. “But he was scrambling, and I was chasing him, and the second he slowed down I knew I had him.”
Portsmouth, who entered the game the No. 22-seed, had costly back-to-back penalties on the drive.
“That was a huge sack at the best time possible,” said Northwest Coach Bill Crabtree. “That put Townsend on top of the world.”
Northwest, who entered the game the No. 11-seed, had the ball most of the third period and allowed the Trojans offense to run only three plays.
“Our goal was to protect the football and keep the chains moving and Roe and their offense off the field,” Crabtree said. “Roe is a freak and can do all kinds of things with the football and we wanted to limit his touches.”
One of the three PHS plays in the third was a 40-yard touchdown pass from Roe to Chris Duff with 4:34 to go in the quarter. Roe, who finished the game with 72-yards passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions, connected with Mike Duncan for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 14.
“We knew they were going to play keep-away with us tonight,” said Portsmouth Coach Bruce Kalb. “But the couple of plays we had in the third we were able to punch it in.”
The Trojans took their first lead at 20-14 in the fourth quarter when Roe found the end zone on a 19-yard run with 8:39 left. A pass play on the two-point conversion failed.
Portsmouth was without placekicker Joel Bowling, who was under quarantine for possible exposure to COVID-19.
“That was a weapon we had all year in Joel,” Kalb added. “What we felt was always a sure-fire thing became our Achilles heel for us tonight. Any time you get into the red zone and can’t come away with points it’s tough.”
Brayden Campbell, a 5-foot-9 junior running back, finished with 218 yards rushing on 35 carries and two touchdowns. His second TD run came with 5:47 to go and knotted the game at 20. Dakota Secrest had the game deciding extra point that made the final score.
“Our line really stepped up,” Campbell said. “We kept our head in the game and stayed focused even when we fell behind.”
The Mohawks grabbed a 7-0 lead with 6:47 to go in the second quarter when Campbell scored on an eight-yard run. The three-play drive was set up by Gilley’s first pick of the night. He intercepted Roe at the 41-yard line and returned the ball to the PHS 13.
The Trojans scored with 3:49 to go in the second quarter when Roe darted in from two yards out. Without their kicker, they were forced to go for two points each time.
Mohawks quarterback Austin Newman scored with 6:14 to play on a one-yard keeper in the third and the Secrest kick boosted the lead to 14-6.
“Our kids were just tired of being kicked down and losing,” Crabtree added. “They got into a dog fight and they had the confidence to play some tough football. We turned the corner tonight and played tough when things got bad.”
Northwest will travel to Columbus to play No. 6-seed Columbus Bishop Ready on Saturday.