NORWICH – The juniors took center stage early, but it was the Norwich seniors – appropriately on senior recognition night – who stood in the limelight for the final act in what was an encore-worthy performance Friday evening against Oneonta.
Junior Grant Brightman rushed for a career-high 152 yards and Norwich’s opening touchdown, senior Seth Thomsen contributed two TD runs and a fourth-quarter TD pass to fellow senior Patrick Taylor, and the Tornado defense picked off four passes in a 34-16 win over the Yellowjackets.
The win moves Norwich to within another victory of a Section IV Division III title, and it was the ninth triumph in 10 division games under third-year head coach John Martinson.
“After (losing) the Sidney game, we made some changes, and they were great changes,” Martinson said. “This is what you want; you want your team peaking.”
Norwich’s offense failed to put any points on the board in the opening quarter, while Oneonta’s no-huddle attack used the passing game to drive for the opening points, a 20-yard Matt Robinson field goal.
Norwich gained the upper hand in the field position battle thanks to another pinpoint punt by junior Kyle Edwards. Edwards’ 43-yard kick pinned OHS inside its own one. Oneonta quarterback Brendan Lord completed a first-down pass to Jacob Mykytyn, but the drive appeared to stall at the 20 as the ‘Jackets faced a fourth-and-one. After calling a timeout, Oneonta surprisingly went for the first down, but stout running back Bryce Wooden was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by Brightman forcing a change of possession.
“I was shocked, to be honest, that they were going for it being up three-nothing,” Martinson said of the defensive stop. “I thought they would have gone for it earlier instead of kicking a field goal. That was a huge turning point to me, and our defense gets those six points.”
That defensive stop for the Norwich defense was just the momentum boost Norwich would need. Brightman capped the 20-yard drive bulling five yards for the first of three NHS TDs in the quarter. It began an onslaught in which the Norwich offense was explosive and unstoppable, in part due to a recommendation by Taylor to Martinson.