NORWICH – Friday night lights returned to Norwich as the Purple Tornado took on the Indians of Owego to open up the 2017 season. For the last four years, Owego has always given Norwich a tough time and this year was supposed to be the same as the Indians offensive line was intimidating to the eye with their size when warming up on the field before the game.
“We knew they were big coming into the game tonight,” said Norwich Head Coach Mike Chrystie.
Norwich's defense took to the field first as Owego received the opening kickoff. Two plays into their first position turned into a costly mistake as Owego's quarterback Tyler Phelps dropped back looking for his receiver 15 to 20 yards out. Instead he found Norwich's Ty Rifanburg, who found the end zone from 28 yards with a pick-6 just seven seconds into the game. Kicking newcomer Mike Trevisani would make it seven points on the board for Norwich with his point after attempt went straight through the uprights.
Owego would take the ensuing Tornado kickoff out to the 40-yard line to start their next drive. It looked as if they hit instant replay. Phelps would drop back in the pocket, looking to pass on the second play of the series. This time, it was Norwich's Michael Carson who would take the the under-thrown ball and bring it into Owego's territory.
Norwich's offense would see the field for the first time of the game but they wouldn't be on for long. After just a few plays, Tornado Eric Conant would take the outside corner and run it in from four yards out. Again, Trevisani would make his extra point tallying the score to 14-0 in the first four minutes of the game. Trevisani would finish his first career night on the gridiron, kicking his way to a four-for-four point after performance.
Phelps and Owego would take the field again, trying to avoid a turnover on the drive. Tornadoes Conant and Grant Wessels seemed to be in the back field of the Indian's as their running backs couldn't gain much yardage. They would be able to avoid the turnover but would be forced to punt after a four-and-out.
Norwich's next possession was kept alive by Zack Race with his speed after he found his gap and rushed his way to a first down with 3:03 left in the first quarter. “Zack took care of the ball tonight,” commented Chrystie. “He played a very controlled game.” The run would ultimately lead to Norwich's third touchdown by Drew Walsh punching it up the middle from seven yards just seconds into the second quarter, putting Norwich up 21-0.
Conant was all over the field, both offensively and defensively as he would lead the way for the Purple in tackles with six, also of which were solo. Wessels would not be far behind as he recorded five and a half. Wessels had strong pressure on the Indians' quarterback anytime Phelps would drop back to pass. These two and the rest of the Norwich Tornado defense would continue to stall the Indians until late in the third quarter when Owego's Zach Miner was able to find the end-zone from five yards out. Owego would add one more touchdown on the night with 33 seconds left in the contest making the final score 28-13, Norwich.
“I couldn't be happier with the way our defense played tonight,” said Defensive Coordinator Wes Mills. “Owego is a very good team that we have prepared for going on three weeks. We were very disciplined. Starting off the game with a pick-six made me very pleased.”
Norwich would finished with 332 total yards offense, with 302 coming from the ground game. Walsh led all ball carriers with 130 yards on 21 attempts (6.2 yards per carry) and a touchdown. Conant ran his way to two touchdowns and just five yards shy of the century mark on 13 carries, giving him an average of 7.3 yards per attempt. Race would finish with 12 carries and 54 yards (4.5 averaged).
Race would go 1-for-7 throwing the ball for the evening. Rifanburg would be the receiver he found for 30 yards passing.
Norwich (1-0) will look to clean up the 95 yards in penalties and two turnovers next week as they head on the road to Waverly, another tough Class B divisional game. Game will kick-off at 7 p.m. Chrystie commented, “Get there early as it's going to be the biggest game of year for Section IV. Waverly is expecting anywhere between 6,000-7,000 spectators.” This game will be a Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser.
O: 0 0 0 13– 13
N: 14 14 0 0– 28