Outside The County-Maconaquah
The Maconaquah kept their Three Rivers Conference slate perfect here Friday night by slipping past the Northfield Norsemen, 27-26.
The hard-earned win moved Mac to 2-1 on the year and to 2-0 in league play. Northfield dropped to 1-2 overall and is winless in a pair of TRC outings. The Braves now lead the overall series, 7-6. Coach Tyler Campbell's gang will travel to Whitko Friday for a conference tilt. "It was a team effort", Campbell said afterward. "The defense stepped up when it had to late in the game and we had no turnovers. We lost a close one last week and won one this week", he added. Brave linebackers Gavin Nethercutt and Ethan Farnell spearheaded defensive coordinator Austen Robison's troops all night long with big plays. Unofficially, Nethercutt led the Braves with 19 tackles. All Farnell did was add 11 stops, cause a fumble, recover two fumbles and put the game on ice in the final two minutes when he picked off a Norse pass and returned it 19 yards as Northfield was driving for the potentially game-winning score. Brady Dausch added nine tackles. Perhaps the biggest stop of the game came with 4:26 left in the game when Northfield scored and attempted a two-point conversion to take the lead. Ayden Jernagan and AJ Kelly combined for the game-saving tackle, setting up Farnell's late-game heroics on Northfield's final possession. Maconaquah jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead only to see the Norse rally and tie things at 14-14 at intermission. MHS junior quarterback Braxton Birner and his talented bevy of sure-handed receivers put on another dazzling exhibition of pitch-and-catch. Kelly, Fuddy Kile, Kaleb Shelton and Oakley Reeser were all on the receiving end of Birner touchdown strikes. Kile led the way with seven catches and 127 yards. Shelton had six grabs for 107 yards and Kelly added 103 yards on 5 catches. It was the first time in Maconaquah history that three receivers surpassed 100 yards in a game. Birner finished 346 yards (third best-ever at MHS) on 22 of 34 firing. His four TD passes moves him into second place all-time with 28. He passed Kyle Dinn and Clark Chambers into second place in career yardage with 2863 yards, trailing only Jon Morrell (3923). The Braves jumped out to an early 14-0 lead with Kelly (62 yards) and Kile (19 yards) on the receiving end of Birner strikes in the opening stanza. Northfield knotted things at 14-all at intermission with a pair of scores in the last three minutes of the half. The Braves started the third quarter in great field position when Northfield's onside kick only traveled six yards. Mac moved to the three after a Norse 15-yard penalty and Birner-Kelly pass covered 25 yards of real estate. Birner found Reeser in the left corner of the endzone with 10:48 showing for the go-ahead score. Kyler Hanson's third straight PAT kick would give the hosts the lead for good, 21-14. Northfield took the ensuing kick and moved to the Brave 25, before Mac's defense dug in and came up with a big fourth down stop on a fourth-and three situation. The Norsemen did trim the lead to 21-20 with 3:33 remaining in the period. Kelly stopped the conversion run attempt. Late in the quarter, facing a third-and-16 at their own 16 the Braves dented the scoreboard again when Shelton hauled in a Birner pass over the middle and outraced Norse defenders 84 yards to paydirt. The pass play was the fifth longest in Maconaquah history. Northfield's opening drive in the fourth quarter covered 80 yards and pulled the Norse to within 27-26. Jernagan and Kelly stopped the conversion and Farnell put the finishing touches on the triumph with his huge interception.