Northwestern High School senior Landon Burns (21) celebrates a touchdown with senior Eli Berner (7) during the Warriors 21-14 victory over Kenton Ridge on Oct. 19. The Warriors will travel to Cincinnati Wyoming for its first-ever football playoff game on Saturday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/MICHAEL COOPER

Northwestern coach on making playoff debut vs. No. 1 Wyoming: ‘I want our kids to go out there swinging’

The Northwestern High School football team has already made history twice this season.

The 2018 Warriors team will go down as the first to ever qualify for the postseason as well as the first to win a league championship in 51 years.

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“It’s a positive situation for the community,” said Northwestern second-year coach Shane Carter. “A lot of hard work went into it from the players and the staff so its really fulfilling from that side of it. It’s nice to have another week to compete against a good program.”

Now, the team’s focus shifts to making history (a playoff win) for a third time.

Eighth-seeded Northwestern (7-3) will travel to No. 1 Cincinnati Wyoming (10-0) for a Division IV, Region 16 quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Saturday night.

“We’re going to have our kids prepared,” Carter said. “I want our kids to go out there swinging. There’s nothing on the line for us in terms of them being the No. 1 seed. At the same time, there’s a lot on the line because we can be a Week 12 team.”

The Cowboys won the state poll championship in D-IV earlier this week. The Cincinnati Hills League champion beat five playoff teams this season — Taft, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, Madeira, Indian Hill and Deer Park.

Wyoming is led by dual threat junior quarterback Evan Prater, who has passed for 1,459 yards and 19 TDs and rushed for 1,049 yards and 21 TDs.

Defensively, Wyoming has not allowed more 14 points in a game since its 42-14 victory over Columbus Academy in Week 1.

“They’ve got a good, solid program there,” Carter said.

The Warriors are 7-3, including last-second losses to both Shawnee and Indian Lake. They beat Kenton Ridge and Graham in the final two weeks to earn a share of their first conference title since 1967 and leap into the final spot in Region 16.

“It speaks a lot to our program,” Carter said. “We’ve come a long way in two years. In terms of being able to prep and persevere, it says a lot about our coaches. I’m most proud that our kids were resilient and they were able to step up when it mattered most at the end of the season.”

The Warriors are led by senior running back Eli Berner, who has rushed for 1,286 yards and 13 TDs on the ground. He rushed for 229 yards and three touchdowns to help Northwestern seal the league title in a 37-13 Week 10 victory at Graham.

Northwestern also touts the most prolific passing game in the CBC with senior QB Chris Hart, who threw for 2,128 yards and 22 TDs. Hart’s favorite targets are Ben Vannoord (843 yards, 10 TDs) and Landon Burns (648 yards, 10 TDs).

Senior defensive end Nathan Snyder led the CBC with 10.5 sacks and was fourth in tackles with 98.

A playoff appearance is a big step for the program moving forward, Carter said.

“It’s something we can build on for our underclassmen and junior high guys,” he said. “I’m proud our seniors could go out with such a legacy. I’d they’re say one of the winningest classes in school history. … We’ve really got a bright future with this program.”

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