With the Toledo Area Athletic Conference championship at stake Friday night, Toledo Christian's big-play passing attack did not disappoint.
Quarterback Nick Rightnowar pulled the trigger on an aerial show, and the visiting Eagles upended three-time defending champ Northwood 20-16.
“It's awesome,” said Rightnowar, who completed 15 of 33 passes for 254 yards, including a game-deciding 32-yard TD toss to Zach Brumbaugh early in the fourth quarter.
“It's the greatest football moment in my life, everyone else on this team, and our program.”
The victory for the Eagles (7-2, 5-0 TAAC) secures at least a share of the crown for the first time in school history. The Rangers are 6-3, 4-1.
“It's just amazing,” TC coach John Miller said. “The kids have worked hard for it all year.”
Rightnowar, Brumbaugh, and David Westmeyer teamed up for a hook-and-ladder score that covered 59 yards just before halftime.
They had trailed 16-7 before Rightnowar made a quick slant pass to Brumbaugh, who pitched it to Westmeyer on a 49-yard scamper down the Northwood sideline.
“That play caught us off guard,” said Northwood defender Zach Bermejo.
Northwood, which has won seven of the last nine TAAC titles, will need a victory over rival Cardinal Stritch and a loss by Toledo Christian to Ottawa Hills in the final week of the season to earn a share of the title.
“Maybe there were a half-dozen crucial plays they made when they had to, and they came out on top,” Northwood coach Ken James said.
The clincher was the eventual game-winning score during the opening moments of the fourth quarter after neither team scored in the third quarter.
Rightnowar's TD completion to Brumbaugh came with just under 11 minutes left in the final period. Brumbaugh went up and took the pass away from Northwood defender John Romstadt to give the Eagles a 20-16 lead with 10:41 to play.
“I just focused on the ball and he [Romstadt) had a hand on it, but I wouldn't let him get to that one,” Brumbaugh said.
The Eagles opened the scoringtaking a 7-0 lead after a six-play, 44-yard drive late in the opening quarter.
Graham Miller finished off the possession with a 1-yard plunge at just under four minutes remaining in the period.
Rightnowar connected with Brian Walton on a 30-yard completion that put Toledo Christian inside the Rangers' 5-yard line to set up Miller's touchdown.
However, Toledo Christian's lead could have represented more than a one-possession edge.
The Eagles drove into red zone territory twice and came up empty.
TC kicker Eric Ziems missed on field goal tries of 31 and 28 yards.
Bermejo, who finished with 107 yards on 27 carries, finally figured out how to get the Rangers on the scoreboard.
The Rangers senior captain set up Northwood's first score when he recovered a fumble by Rightnowar inside the Eagles' 10-yard line.
On Northwood's first play, Bermejo took it in for a score on an eight-yard scamper with just over four minutes left in the first half.
Bermejo gave the Rangers an 8-7 lead when he went untouched into the end zone on the two-point conversion.
Northwood wasn't done scoring in the half after the Rangers defense set up another scoring drive when it denied the Eagles from converting a fake punt on a fourth-and-one play near midfield.
The Eagles' Sam Ivan was stopped for no gain by Northwood linebacker Nick Whitmore on the fake-punt attempt with just under two minutes left in the half.
The Rangers took advantage of the good field position and marched 52 yards on seven plays with Mike Prothero scoring on a 3-yard carry with 24.4 seconds left in the second quarter.
Bermejo made it 16-7 when he converted the two-point conversion on a carry.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6302.