Having lost three of the first five games, the 2015 season had been a rough one for first-year Northwestern coach Max Edwards and the Bulls players.
But things got better Saturday night — a lot better.
Having had to go four consecutive seasons losing to neighborhood rival Booker T. Washington and then watch the Tornadoes win state titles at the same time, Northwestern finally came through with a breakthrough win on Saturday night.
The Bulls overcame a seven-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to knock off Booker T. 23-17 in a nondistrict game at Traz Powell Stadium.
The win marked the first time since 2010 when Teddy Bridgewater was quarterbacking the Bulls that Northwestern won this rivalry game.
Northwestern (3-3) trailed 17-10 at the beginning of the fourth quarter but rallied on a 13-yard Corey Lane touchdown run with 10:12, took the lead on a 35-yard field goal from Kelvin Flores with 5:09 left and then added a 32-yard insurance field goal by Flores with 1:28 left, his third of the game.
Out of timeouts, quarterback Daniel Richardson drove Booker T. from his own 15 to the Bulls’ 48, but Trenell Troutman sealed the win with an interception with eight seconds left.
“This is really a big for the program,” Edwards said. “It lets everyone know that the kids are getting better every week, and they’re starting to buy into the program. All we’re asking them to do is the right things off the field, go to class on time, be respectful to others and that will filter down to success on the field.”
Said Lane: “This means a lot. In previous years, we’ve been losing to Booker T. But every day our coaches just told us to keep on working hard, and if we hang in there, we’ll see the hard work pay off, and [Saturday night] is proof of that.”
The Bulls grabbed an early 7-0 lead on Kai Henry’s 20-yard touchdown run, but the Tornadoes (3-4)m who can wrap up their district title with a win over Gulliver next week, answered right back with an 80-yard drive, with Richardson connecting with Raymond Flanders for a 16-yard touchdown reception.
Two drives later, Booker T. took a 14-7 lead when Richardson, who completed 16-of-29 passes for 184 yards, hooked up with Gustavious Dames for a 46-yard score.
The teams spent the next quarter and a half trading punts and trading one field goal apiece, which set the stage for Northwestern’s fourth-quarter rally.
“We just played hard,” said Bulls defensive end Amani Peoples, who had two sacks, including a big one with 4:28 to play that forced the Tornadoes to punt from their own end zone and set up Flores’ final field goal. “I coudn’t let my team down, so here we come, Bull pride is on the way back, try to stop us now.”
Said Flores about his field goals: “I love the pressure. I love it when it’s all on me. Hitting kick after kick in practice every day, that’s when the hard work pays off, so there was never a doubt I was going to knock those through.”