The last time the North Callaway varsity football team faced Montgomery County it found out the hard way just how wild quarterback Ethan Abercrombie and the Wildcats offense could be.
Thunderbirds head coach Kevin O'Neal had seen that play out in front of him like a bad dream he couldn't wake up from during the regular season and he had no intention of reliving that lucid nightmare. This meant shutting down Montgomery County's aerial and ground attacks in last Friday's Class 2, District 5, matchup at North Callaway and if that were such a simple task the visitors wouldn't be coming into this postseason extravaganza on a five-game win streak.
What was once a high-scoring affair the first time around quickly saw both sides begin to guard and parry with all the skill and acumen of dueling swordsmen in round two. The lunges were as swift as the ripostes were powerful after recovering from a stop hit. Second intentions were forgot in favor of a more aggressive fleching and flunging type of style as recovery became a lost cause and both sides simply looked to draw a point-in-line to try and control the fencing strip.
As elegant and back to basics as this contest became the other difference was the Thunderbirds fourth quarter defense and the two big stops it made between thwarting a two point conversion and swiping a pass at the end, all of which added up to help this team defeat Montgomery County at home 22-20.
"The defense made plays when it had to and the offense was on the entire game," said North Callaway head coach Kevin O'Neal. "We look forward to playing at South Callaway once again next week."
The first gesture in this tete-a-tete came when North Callaway's Jordan Dellashmut reached the endzone on a 46-yard run at 11:32 of the opening quarter. After Chet Cunningham ran in the two-point conversion that made it an 8-0 game.
It was at 2:10 of the first that Abercrombie, who completed 17-of-30 passes for 263 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, was able to make a similar gesture for the Wildcats on a two-yard touchdown blast. But, when the two-point run failed, Montgomery County found itself trailing 8-6.
Jadon Henry then connected with Cunningham at 7:19 of the second for North Callaway on a 16-yard touchdown pass to send the game into halftime at 14-6.
It may not have felt like it at the moment because of how much time that passed, but that play also set up the T-Birds to control the third based on momentum and that roll commenced at 6:45 when Dellashmut tackled Abercrombie in his own endzone for a safety on a 1st and 10 at his own two.
Still feeling themselves, North Callaway stayed on that same track and worked themselves back down for one more touchdown at 2:48 on a 42-yard connection between Henry and Cunningham. The two-point pass was no good, though, extending the advantage to 22-6.
Montgomery County finally got back in the game in the fourth and actually dominated the session. This included hitting paydirt at 11:51 on a 28-yard toss from Abercrombie to Parrish. The problem was the Wildcats really needed that conversion to play for the tie and send the game to overtime, but Abercrombie's pass fell incomplete.
When Abercrombie hit Parrish for a 20-yard score at 5:23 and the two-point conversion run was, in fact, good, that made it 22-20 with plenty of time to play. Making things even more tenuous was the fact the Wildcats were able to get the ball back with 4:38 left in regulation and they started driving. Montgomery County was working it down the field and even put a pass up to what looked to be a wide open receiver in the end zone...and that's when the T-Birds Cody Cash slid in for the interception.
From there North Callaway was able to grind out the rest of the time based on several 15-yard penalties that were called on the defense. For the game the Wildcats were called for seven 15-yard infractions. They also held Thunderbirds running back Dakota Brush to 25 rushing yards on 15 attempts and sacked Henry four times. For the game Parrish ended up with seven catches for 93 yards and two scores, Abercrombie also ran the ball 12 times for 49 yards and one touchdown and Bailey Sontag came through to the tune of a half-dozen catches for 111 yards. Blake Eoff, Aaron Milner and Kyle Yelton were good for 11, eight and seven tackles, respectively, for the Wildcats, as well.
North Callaway's Dellashmutt ran the ball 13 times for 157 yards and a score in addition to the 15 tackles and the safety he accounted for and Cunningham had two interceptions.
Montgomery County ends the season with a record of 5-5 overall.
North Callaway, 7-3 overall, plays next week at 7 p.m. at South Callaway, 9-1 overall.