Toledo Christian's Caleb Wotring, right, runs past Northwood's Myles Habel chases on Friday. The junior finished with 133 yards.
NORTHWOOD — As if flipping a switch after spotting visiting Toledo Christian a 14-3 lead early in the third quarter, Northwood turned the lights out on the Eagles, and their hopes of a football upset and first place in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.
Over the final 20 minutes, Northwood (6-2, 5-0) outscored Toledo Christian 35-6, and ultimately rolled to a 38-20 victory over the Eagles (5-3, 4-1) Friday night.
Junior running back Dominik Bermejo led the way for the Rangers’ offense, rushing 29 times for 200 yards and three touchdown in the TAAC showdown.
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“In the first half we had some miscommunications, and we weren’t all on the same page,” Bermejo said. “In the second half we came out on the same page, we executed, and we just had more intensity.
“We’re in a really good position now. We just want to keep that [championship run] going.”
Northwood is now in prime position to win its third straight TAAC title, and its 10th in 13 seasons since joining the conference in 2001.
The 18-point final margin did not seem so realistic at halftime, when the Rangers managed just 68 offensive yards and trailed 6-3. They got their only points on Jacob Vickers’ 31-yard field goal as time expired in the half.
TC had grabbed a 6-0 lead 5:48 before halftime on an 88-yard hook-and-lateral play.
Facing a third-and-26 situation from his 12 yard line, Eagles quarterback Brett Freeman hit tight end Kyle Kempton 10 yards downfield, and Kempton pitched back to running back Caleb Wotring, who streaked the remaining 78 yards down the left sidelines for the score.
Furthering their effort for the potential upset, the Eagles took the second-half kickoff and marched 80 yards on seven plays to score on Wotring’s two-yard run. A successful conversion pass put TC ahead 14-3 just 1:50 into the third quarter.
Northwood awoke, however, and scored TDs on five of their next six possessions to take control.
Northwood’s Dominik Bermejo, left, stiff-arms Toledo Christian’s Tony Fuller. Bermejo finished with 200 yards and three scores.
“We just made a few play-calling and blocking adjustments at halftime,” veteran Northwood coach Ken James said. “The biggest thing was they were bringing defensive linemen up in the gaps, so we were trying to pull and trap. We got some kick-out blocks that just helped us run the ball better.
“We talk about being poised and just doing what you’ve got to do. We don’t worry about the scoreboard. If you do things the right way the score will take care of itself.”
Jacob Davenport got the Rangers within 14-10 on a four-yard TD run with 8:09 left in the third, and then set up Northwood’s next score with a 39-yard punt return to the TC 3.
Bermejo covered the final three yards on his next rush, and the Rangers led 17-14 with 6:51 left in the period.
“He’s a skinny kid but he’s strong and he’s tough,” James said of Bermejo. “He runs at a good pad level and keeps his legs driving. He can cut when he’s in the open, and he does a good job of protecting the ball. He’s a great running back.”
Toledo Christian answered, taking its final lead when Wotring (10 carries, 133 yards) capped a 69-yard march with his third score of the game, this one a 38-yard run around end.
The rest was all Rangers, as Bermejo plunged in from the 1 to send Northwood to the fourth quarter up 24-20.
Quarterback Mike Vallejo added a one-yard TD sneak with 9:45 left in the game, and Bermejo capped things with a four-yard TD run with 4:53 remaining.
“We knew if we could jump on them quick we would have an opportunity to come away with a victory,” first-year Eagles coach Craig Willis said. “But they’re a resilient football team.
"We scored on our first drive of the second half, but they came back and, over a period of time, their size was just too much for us. That’s how it went.”
Northwood topped TC 292-260 in total offense, and won the turnover battle 2-0 as well. The Rangers’ Jayden Parker and Derek Florez intercepted Freeman (9 for 18, 101 yards passing) within a span of 2:18 midway in the fourth quarter.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.