High school football: Undefeated Northeastern beats Mechanicsburg for first time since 2011

SPRINGFIELD — Hunter Albright remembers the small crowds at the Northeastern High School football games during his freshman year in 2019.

On Friday night, the line to enter the stadium before their game against Mechanicsburg stretched all the way to Bowman Road, he said.

“Now everybody is here,” said Albright, a senior defensive end/running back.

The Jets gave the fans plenty to cheer about in a key Ohio Heritage Conference North Division matchup. Senior quarterback Cade Houseman rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another TD as Northeastern beat Mechanicsburg 42-21 in front of a packed house at Conover Field.

“It was a dogfight, but we came out on top and that’s all that matters,” Albright said.

Albright and sophomore Garrett Chadwell each rushed for TDs and senior Gunnar Leonard caught a TD pass as the Jets (7-0, 2-0 OHC North) beat the Indians (5-2. 1-1) for the first time since 2011.

“It reaffirms how hard we’ve worked to get where we’re at,” Jets coach Jake Buchholtz said. “It’s awesome because our kids aren’t satisfied with just beating Mechanicsburg. We’ve got West Liberty-Salem next week and all of our goals are within reach. It was a good win for our program.”

Mechanicsburg, ranked No. 10 in this weeks Division VII state media poll, jumped out to a 7-0 lead as junior Kailen Butler returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.

The Jets, ranked 11th in this week’s Division V state poll, tied the score when Albright scored on a 2-yard run. The Indians responded with a 19-yard TD run by junior Jayden Roland to take a 14-7 lead.

Northeastern responded with three straight touchdowns — a 16-yard TD pass from Houseman to Leonard and TD runs of 55 and 2 yards by Houseman — to grab a 28-14 halftime lead.

“We’ve always got a shot when the ball is in (Houseman’s) hands,” Buchholtz said.

The Jets capitalized on three Indians fumbles.

“We just came to hit,” Albright said. “When we hit, we hit hard. We let them know we’re here and we go after the ball. Without our D-line and linebackers working their butts off and our coaches, we wouldn’t be here. We’re just going to keep rolling.”

Leonard also recovered a fumble and picked up a key tackle for loss.

“He’s a tough kid who comes from a great family,” Buchholtz said. “He made a ton of plays tonight. I was really proud of him. He played well in all phases of the game.”

Houseman scored on a 59-yard run on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter to give the Jets a 35-14 lead.

The Indians responded with a 6-yard TD pass from Roland to junior Liam Smith midway through the third quarter. Mechanicsburg recovered a fumble at midfield on Northeastern’s next drive, but wasn’t able to capitalize.

The Indians made too many mistakes to win a big football game, said Mechanicsburg coach Kurt Forrest. They host Fairbanks next Friday night.

“Too many penalties, bad snaps, turnovers,” Forrest said. “You can’t beat a good football team when you do things like that. I’m extremely proud of our kids’ effort. We understand when you play for Mechanicsburg the bullseye that’s on your chest from everybody on the field, not just players. We know the bulls-eye is on our chest from every angle. That’s the greatest compliment that you can get. We understand that we’ve got to play to perfect and we didn’t.”

Chadwell scored on a 6-yard run midway through the fourth quarter to seal the victory for the Jets. They travel to West Liberty-Salem (5-2, 2-0 OHC North) for another key division matchup next Friday night.

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