Blythewood falls to Northwestern in home opener

BLYTHEWOOD – The lack of practice time in the COVID-19 – affected high school football season showed in Blythewood’s Region 4-5A opener against Northwestern Friday night.

Passes fell short. Footballs fell from hands at key moments. And the Trojans’ two fourth-quarter scores did the Bengals in in a 19-7 defeat at District 2 Stadium.

“It’s tough on the kids, I know, because they fought really hard in this one,” Blythewood head coach Jason Seidel said. “It’s a credit to Northwestern, I thought they played a great game.

I was proud of our kids and how hard they played, we’ve just got to go back on Monday and go back to work.”

Quarterback Angelo Donato, who joined the team just a few weeks ago as a transfer from Wake Christian Academy in Raleigh, completed just six of 15 passing attempts for 89 yards.

“We’ve got a new quarterback who’s still learning the offense and when you don’t have those non-region games anymore to get him ready, he’s gonna feel thrown into it.” Seidel said. “Our kids do a great job with him, they know he’s learning. He’s doing everything we ask.”

Jordan Burrell replaced him for two series in the third and fourth quarters. The wildcat-running Burrell rushed five times for eight yards and passed twice for 7 yards.

“He did a good job for us when he went in,” Seidel said. “He’s nice to have. He’s been with us. He knows the offense.”

Northwestern running back Qua Howard finished the night with 125 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, while receiver and kick returner Christian Watkins had 197 total yards and a game-clinching score.

“We shot ourselves in the foot early, but we just kept plugging along and that’s something I can say about this team, that there’s no quit in them,” Northwestern head coach Page Wofford said. “I’m so proud of them right now, I can’t stand it.”

Northwestern, which topped Ridge View 37-21 at District 2 Stadium last week in its region opener, returned to the scene and held the Bengals scoreless for three quarters. It wasn’t until D.J. Hutcherson blocked a fourth-quarter punt and set Blythewood up at the Northwestern 9-yard line before the Bengals caught a break.

Two plays after Hutcherson’s block, Jordan Burrell’s clutch TD pass to brother Josh Burrell at the 8:37 mark of the final stanza gave the Bengals a 7-6 lead.

That lead lasted all of 13 seconds.

Christian Watkins, who had 166 yards on the night on kickoff and punt returns, took the kickoff at the Northwestern 8-yard line, punched through the center of Blythewood’s special teamers, and blasted down the right sideline to complete a 92-yard kickoff return.

“They set up a good wedge,” Seidel said. “We tell our kids special team is going to win or lose you a game every year.”

Five minutes later, Northwestern’s leading rusher Qua Howard burst in from one yard out to make it 19-7 Trojans.

“I just challenged them to keep playing, and quit shooting ourselves in the foot,” Wofford said about the fourth-quarter scores. “Finally at the end we figured some things out. My hat’s off to Blythewood, they played very hard and kept coming at us. Our team showed a lot of character to get that victory.”

The Trojans and Bengals battled up and down the gridiron in the first half, but only Northwestern kicker Kanoah Vinesett’s two field goals to show for it.

Vinesett’s 26-yarder at the 9:50 mark of the first got the Trojans on the scoreboard first. Vineset tried a second attempt six minutes later, but a low snap botched the play and Blythewood’s Chad Ishmael came up with the football after Vinesett coughed it up on run attempt.

Ishmael returned it to midfield, but Blythewood fumbled the ball away a couple of plays later.

Vinesett’s second field goal, a 35-yarder, came at the 9:13 mark of the second quarter.

Blythewood carved up a golden scoring opportunity on its next set, when it drove 79 yards to the 1-yard line before catastrophe struck.

After a roughing-the-passer penalty set the Bengals up at their own 35-yard line, Angelo Donato connected with Josh Burrell for a 32-yard pass play that put Blythewood in Northwestern territory.

A defensive holding penalty set Blythewood up at the Trojans 20-yard line, where Donato found Josh Burrell again. Burrell caught the ball at the 1, then came to the ground and lost it. Officials ruled it a fumble and Northwestern recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

“He was trying to stretch it and punch it in,” Seidel said. “We had it there, and that would have been a huge play, but it is what it is.”

The Blythewood defense kept the Bengals in the game in spite of the offensive misfires.

Northwestern eventually drove deep into Blythewood territory late in the first half, but Jordan Burrell intercepted a Will Mattison pass with two minutes to go.

When Northwestern drove quickly to the Blythewood 18, D.J. Hutchinson picked off another Mattison pass with 10 seconds left to keep the game a 1-possession affair at the half.  

“Our defense played great this game,” Seidel said. “They played their butts off today and I was proud of them.”

Northwestern plays host to Spring Valley and Blythewood welcomes Rock Hill at District 2 Stadium Friday.

“You’ve gotta move on and get ready for the next one,” Seidel said. “Rock Hill’s got a real good defense and we’ve gotta be ready to go.”

NHS –  3-3-0-13 — 19

BHS – 0-0-0-7 — 7

First Quarter

N – Kanoah Vinesett 26 field goal. 9:50

Second Quarter

N – Vinesett 35 field goal. 9:13

Fourth Quarter

B – Josh Burrell 7 pass from Jordan Burrell (Andrew Davidson kick) 8:37

N – Christian Watkins 92 kickoff return (run failed) 8:24

N – Qua Howard 1 run (Vineset kick) 3:24

                                     Northwestern    Blythewood

First Downs                         16                    12

Rushes-Yards                     35-118          33-90

Passing Yards                     131                 96

Att-Com-Int                        15-23-2        8-19-0

Fumbles-Lost                      1-1                 2-2

Penalties-Yards                 10-95            7-35

Punts-Avg.  4-28.2           6-31.0          

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Northwestern – Qua Howard 26-125, Will Mattison 8, 17, Kanoah Vinesett 1-(-24). Blythewood – Dhani Dixon 12-58, Jordan Burrell 5-11, Angelo Donato 7-9, Desmond Boatwright 7-7, Mason Legree 2-5.

PASSING: Northwestern – Will Mattison 15-23-2-131. Blythewood – Angelo Donato 6-15-0-89, Jordan Burrell 2-4-0-7.

RECEIVING: Northwestern – Christian Watkins 4-29, Elijah Caldwell 3-28, Cali Cunningham 3-15, Tre Anderson 2-25, Qua Howard 2-8, Jayden Boyd 1-26. Blythewood – Josh Burrell 6-98, Jake Parker 1-(-1), Desmond Boatwright 1-(-1).