HUNTSVILLE — With both teams battling for a postseason berth, Northview Academy stunned Scott High by jumping to a 21-0 lead here Friday, en route to a 35-18 win over the Highlanders.
The Cougars finished with only 202 yards of offense, but made the most of them by putting five touchdowns on the board. Their defense, meanwhile, limited the Highlanders to only 186 yards of offense.
With yardage hard to come by for either team, Northview Academy turned a pair of first half interceptions into touchdowns, and drove 82 yards for a third score to build the 21-0 lead.
The Highlanders appeared to be in comeback mode in the third quarter. Eli Hembree broke free for a 79-yard touchdown run, and Tristen Henry recovered a fumble to set up a touchdown by sophomore quarterback Alex Rector, as Scott High trimmed a 28-0 deficit to 28-12.
Scott’s defense then appeared to be on the verge of a crucial stop, but Northview Academy quarterback Justin Howard broke free for a 56-yard touchdown on third down in the waning seconds of the third quarter, giving his team a 35-12 lead that was too much for the Highlanders to overcome.
“I’m disappointed in the product that we put out there tonight,” Scott head coach Keith Shannon said after the game. “I felt we came out very lackadaisical. Some of the very uncharacteristic mistakes we were making, those types of mistakes were not the mistakes we made throughout the season. Whatever it is, we just weren’t focused on coming out. In such a critical and crucial time in the season, it’s catastrophic.”
The loss ended Scott’s hopes of a playoff berth, while Northview Academy punched its ticket to the Class 3A state playoffs.
“I told the guys, obviously us coaches, we shoulder a lot of blame for things not being as we would like, but this is something we’re all wallowing in,” Shannon said. “This is a team game, it’s a team sport, and coaches and players are in it together. Obviously we didn’t get it done tonight. It is what it is. I hate it.”
Scott picked up a couple of first downs on its opening possession, advancing the ball to midfield. But the drive ended with a Jonah Lawson interception, setting up a 54-yard touchdown drive for Northview.
The Cougars advanced the ball to the one-yard-line with a 47-yard pass from Howard to Zeb Petty, which set up a short run by Joe Grindstaff for an early lead.
Following a Scott High punt, Northview put together its best drive of the night, marching 82 yards before Howard hooked up with Caleb Cruz for a 27-yard touchdown on third-and-16.
Howard accounted for much of the Warriors’ offense. He completed only four of 16 passes, but made the most of them, finishing with 119 yards. He also led his team in rushing, with 51 yards on just four carries.
“We knew it was going to be a tough sell to get him,” Shannon said of Howard. “We hit him. But we had some breakdowns. It’s tough.”
Up 14-0, Northview padded its lead after another interception, scoring on a one-yard run by Grindstaff after a 33-yard pass from Howard to Grindstaff and a touchdown-saving tackle by Ryan Newport.
The Highlanders were able to get inside Northview’s 30-yard-line on the next possession, but the drive stalled. The Highlanders later got to the Cougars’ 35 before another drive stalled.
Northview began the second half with an 85-yard drive for a score, which came on a four-yard run by Grindstaff.
Down 28-0, the Highlanders could have folded, but instead battled back. On the next play from scrimmage, Hembree broke free for a 79-yard run to provide a spark of life for Scott High. Three plays after that, Henry recovered a fumble at the 24-yard-line to set up another touchdown, which came on a one-yard run by Rector — the first of his career — after a critical fourth down conversion by Hembree.
Down 28-12, the Highlanders were back in the game, but Northview landed a knockout punch with Howard’s 56-yard run on third-and-four with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter.
Scott responded with another touchdown drive of its own, with Rector scoring again, this time on a two-yard run. The touchdown cut the lead to 35-18. But, needing a couple of two-point conversions, the Highlanders opted to try for two after the score, and it failed. As a result, Scott was still down three possessions in the fourth quarter.
The Highlanders were able to get the ball back at midfield with 6:40 to play, but a fumble at the 33-yard-line ended the drive. Northview was then able to run out the clock.