Game of the Week: Norton tops Smith Center
Published on -9/2/2012, 6:01 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
NORTON - Norton Community High School senior quarterback Dalton Miller, in his first career start, completed 11-of-17 passes for 153 yards with one passing and one rushing score and no interceptions. Senior Jacob Brooks, a multi-purpose threat, rushed 23 times for 99 yards and a score, caught two passes for 20 yards and had a punt downed at the Smith Center 4-yard line.
Junior Tanner Furbush entered the contest with no career touchdowns, but rushed for two scores and had a 51-yard punt return. Senior Andrew Ellis, a J.V. player last season, hauled in five catches for 92 yards and his first career TD. The defense recorded seven tackles for loss and recovered three fumbles.
The all-around play by veterans and inexperienced players in all three phases helped Norton overcome some mistakes and earn a 34-13 victory against rival Smith Center in the 2012 season opener Friday night at Travis Field.
"The kids prepared well the last three weeks," Norton coach Lucas Melvin said. "They are still things that as a coach like, 'Golly,' but they did a good job. A lot of kids played, and played hard."
Norton finished 3-6 last season, its first losing season in 17 years. Friday's victory ended a five-game losing streak that dated back to Week 5 of last fall. After six straight losses to Smith Center, Norton has won two of the last three. Smith Center scored the fewest points against its rival since 2003.
"We were real ready for this season, because we had last season, which didn't go so good," said Bluejay senior lineman Lucas Engel, who recorded two tackles for loss, including a sack. "But we're ready to go out there and start something new with our senior class."
Smith Center returned just three players who started last year and had a brand-new offensive line. The Redmen collected 294 yards of total offense, but nearly half came on two plays. Junior Kody Molzahn had an 80-yard TD run and led Smith Center with 149 rushing yards. With five seconds left in the game, Molzahn hauled in a 60-yard score.
"We have a long ways to go," Smith Center coach Roger Barta said. "This should be an experience for our kids. They beat us, and they beat us good and they are a better football team than we are. We are just going to get better."
The first half had some sloppy play on both sides. Norton muffed a punt, and Brooks had an 81-yard TD run called back because of a holding penalty, one of five first-half flags for the Bluejays.
"There are a lot of areas that we need to clean up," Melvin said.
Smith Center senior Kyler Atwood, the Redmen's top returning player, lost three fumbles and finished with 31 yards on 13 carries.
"That is real rare," Barta said. "He has never done that before. I think he is just trying too hard and he had a bad night."
Miller, the backup to Jordan Wahlmeier last season, orchestrated the offensive effectively all night. Helped by several short passes, he scored on a 2-yard run for a 7-0 lead with 8:58 left in the first half.
"We saw their corners backed up far, so we were going to hit quick routes to start the game off," Miller said.
With 2:37 remaining in the half, Miller found Ellis for a 21-yard TD. Ellis caught just one pass all last season.
"I had butterflies, I was nervous, I had been dreaming about it all week," Ellis said. "I was ready to go, though, it was fun. We did our (pregame) walk down the hill, I was kind in the zone, it was kind of fun. Just like pressure let off."
On the next play, Molzahn responded with his 80-yard score down the left side and Norton led 14-7 at halftime. Brooks started to cramp midway through the third quarter and missed nearly all of an offensive series.
"We had a lot of guys that were cramping, even though I thought we had a pretty clear discussion about how much water they need to be drinking," Melvin said. "So that's their fault and that won't happen again."
Furbush recorded one carry for one yard in 2011 and entered the fall down on the depth chart. He replaced Brooks and had three carries on the drive, including a 6-yard score with 2:30 left in the third quarter.
"Tanner came into camp a little in the doghouse, because he didn't work as hard this summer as I thought he should have," Melvin said. "But he kind of picked it up at the end of the summer, and he came in pretty focused and impressed us with his attitude and his effort and carried over to tonight."
Brooks scored early in the fourth quarter on a 16-yard run and Furbush tacked on the Bluejays' final points with a 3-yard run with 1:44 left.
"It was great, just a team effort," Brooks said.