Fast start lifts Kenton Ridge past Northwestern

SPRINGFIELD — Kenton Ridge High School senior running back Heath Jones could tell his teammates were ready to play.

The inspired Cougars scored on their first two possessions to grab an early 14-0 lead against Clark County rival Northwestern on their way to a 23-13 on Friday night at Taylor Field in Springfield.

“Dudes were fired up early in the game,” Jones said.

Jones rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown as the Cougars won three straight games for the first time since the 2019 season.

“It’s a great accomplishment but we’ve got a ton of competition in the last half of the season,” Jones said. “This doesn’t matter, the past doesn’t matter. We’ve got to get ready for Shawnee.”

Kenton Ridge sophomore quarterback Julian Daniels went 8-for-18 for 127 yards and a TD, sophomore Xavier White caught a 20-yard TD pass and had two interceptions and junior Jackson Patton rushed for a touchdown for the Cougars (3-1).

“Our line set the tone earlier tonight and it paid off big time,” said senior tight end/linebacker Bryce Smith.

Northwestern sophomore quarterback Ried Smith threw a 5-yard TD pass to senior Jacob Shaffer and rushed for an 11-yard TD as the Warriors (1-3) lost their second straight. Northwestern travels to Tecumseh next week.

“Our kids played all four quarters and football, and they played their butts off,” said Warriors coach Lance Lambert. “We’re four or five plays away from a completely different game. That’s what we tell our kids. Week-to-week, we just haven’t made those plays, and it hasn’t swung our way yet.”

After stopping Northwestern on its first drive, the Cougars scored on a 3-yard run by Patton to take an early 7-0 lead.

The Warriors (1-3) mishandled the ensuing kickoff and were forced to punt from their own end zone. The Cougars took advantage of the good field position, scoring on a 1-yard run early in the second quarter.

Northwestern responded with a five-yard TD pass from Smith to Shaffer to make it 14-6.

Julian Daniels hit junior Nick Arnold on two deep passes late in the first half, setting up a 22-yard field goal by sophomore Cruz Sanders to give the Cougars a 17-6 halftime lead.

With about three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Julian Daniels hit White on a 20-yard TD pass to give the Cougars a 23-6 lead.

Ried Smith scored on an 11-yard scramble with 6:39 remaining, but the Warriors couldn’t get any closer.

The Cougars (3-1) play another Clark County rival in Week 5. Kenton Ridge hosts Shawnee for the second straight season in a battle of 3-1 teams. The Braves beat the Cougars 17-7 last season.

“I will take this senior group to war with me any day of the week,” said Cougars coach Jon Daniels. “I would take this group of kids to war with me any day of the week. We’re going to get after it this week and I know they’re excited about the crosstown rivalry. We’re going to see what happens. I know this group will leave it all out there.”

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