PENINSULA — Momentum shifts proved to be huge Friday when Woodridge football hosted Nordonia at Lahoski Field.
First, Nordonia sprinted out to a 17-0 lead.
Then, Woodridge rallied for 13 straight points to make it 17-13 at the half. What’s more, the Bulldogs were driving early in the third quarter to potentially take the lead — but then Nordonia stripped Woodridge’s Elijah Arnett of the ball.
"We had the momentum for a good quarter and a half and we’re going in to score," said Woodridge coach Jeff Decker. "That fumble just killed us. You just can’t do that against good teams."
Indeed, two plays later, Nordonia quarterback Robby Levak threw an 84-yard bomb to Julius Jones for a touchdown. That started a run of 27 unanswered points for Nordonia as the Knights scored a 44-13 win.
Levak had a huge game, going 14-of-22 for 393 yards and five touchdowns. Four of his touchdowns went for more than 40 yards.
Nordonia coach Jeff Fox said the long-ball attack was both by design and came from the flow of the game.
"It was a bit of both," Fox said. "We have lot of guys who are capable of making big plays. The Jones brothers both made some great plays tonight."
While senior twin brothers Julius and Jordan Jones each found the end zone for Nordonia, it was freshman Cooper Rusk who got the Knights off and running.
Rusk turned a screen pass into a 41-yard touchdown with 7:57 left in the first quarter. Rusk caught two passes for 92 yards, both of which went for scores.
"He’s showing, as a 14-year-old freshman, that he’s got the maturity to play."
Nordonia took a 10-0 lead after kicker Evan Wiehe nailed 37-yard field goal late in the first and then made it 17-0 when Levak hit Julius Jones with a 51-yard streak down the sideline.
It was at that point, however, that Woodridge’s offense woke up.
After punting on its first four drives, Woodridge was able to work its way down the field as it started to find its running game. Senior Denver Cody leaped into the end zone to complete a 7-yard touchdown run with 4:57 left in the half. The extra point was blocked.
Cody was a bright spot the Bulldogs, as he finished with 139 yards on 25 carries.
"Denver, i’m really proud of him," Decker said. "He’s worked hard to become our starting running back and he made plays tonight. We just need to have more players make plays around him."
Woodridge got a bit lucky just before halftime, as a deflected pass in the end zone was caught by D.J. Snyder, making it 17-13 with 10 seconds left in the half.
Woodridge quarterback Andrew Mekeal went 16-of-28 for 138 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The Bulldogs looked to have momentum on their side, but after Arnett’s fumble and Levak’s bomb to Julius Jones, it was all Knights. Julius Jones finished with six catches for 198 yards.
Levak would then throw another 51-yard touchdown pass top Rusk with 52 seconds left in the third quarter and — after an interception by the Knights’ Vince Varner — hit Jordan Jones for a 23-yard screen pass for a touchdown.
Nordonia completed the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run from Shannon Reese-Jones with 7:39 left in the game. Wiehe went 5-of-6 on extra points, as one was blocked.
"It’s early, but winning feels a lot better than losing," Fox said, as the Knights have already equalled their win total from 2017. "We’ve got a lot of 50/50 games ahead of us. Tonight, we took over a game that close. We’re learning how to win. That’s the biggest thing I take away from tonight."