No matter where Alex Robbins turned, orange and white jerseys swarmed.
Northeastern High School’s speedy 5-foot-9, 160-pound junior quarterback spent much of Friday’s first half on his backside, courtesy of West Liberty-Salem’s menacing, four-front defense.
The Tigers’ held Robbins and company to minus-7 first-half yards while wracking up 271 of their own, mounting a 35-3, second-quarter lead that swelled to a 49-23 Ohio Heritage Conference blowout.
“I’ve got to give it to Coach (Dan) McGill – they made plays and we didn’t. They’re a good football team with great tradition,” said Northeastern coach Scott Rolf, whose team was outgained, 441-217. “We’ve only got six seniors. We’re a little young, but they’re great kids. We’re going to grow and just get better and better.”
West Liberty-Salem (5-0, 2-0 OHC) got 240 yards and four touchdowns on 14 of 22 passing from 6-1 sophomore quarterback Brandon Upton, 196 coming via a cruise-control first-half.
“Honestly, it felt like we played a little sloppy tonight, though,” McGill assessed. “We’ve come out and played well initially this year, but after we build a lead in the first quarter our youth starts to come through.
“That’s when some of our guys lose their attention to detail and why we start seeing a bit too many penalties, fumbles and return yards. Those kinds of things will get us beat down the road, so we’ve got some room to improve.”
West Liberty-Salem’s defense held run-oriented Northeastern (1-4, 0-2) without a first down until 1:36 remained in the opening quarter. By then, much of the Tigers’ offensive damage was done.
“Right now, we just want to work to get to where we need to be,” said Northeastern senior Drey Williams, a 6-foot, 225-pound fullback who had some blue-collar success against the Tigers with 133 yards on 18 carries.
“We feel we’re a good team. The teams we’ve played, most of them have been undefeated (early), but we also haven’t played to the best of our ability yet.”
Landon Williams, West Liberty-Salem’s sure-handed 6-1 junior receiver, hauled in four passes for 103 yards – all in the first half.
“Our kids played hard,” McGill said, “but to achieve the goals that they want to achieve, we’ve got to do things a lot better.”
The Tigers cashed in on each of their opening three possessions for a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
Upton capped a 6-play, 49-yard drive at 7:42 by hitting junior receiver Ben Burden with a 13-yard TD bullet. Three minutes later, he found junior Kameron Evans for an 11-yard touchdown.
An excellent punt return from Trevor Anderson, combined with a costly pass interference call on the Jets one play later, set up a 15-yard TD run from 6-3 senior back Dave Branham at 1:52.
Down 21-0, the Jets fought back behind a series of strong runs from Williams, who hauled Northeastern 65 yards to the Tigers’ 8 early in the second period.
The Jets went no further but did get on the scoreboard, settling for a 20-yard field goal from junior Mitchell McCorkle at 9:42.
West Liberty-Salem closed out the half on a pair of Upton TD passes – 39 yards to Williams and 19 yards to junior Trent Thomas.