Northwestern’s climb back to the top took another big step Thursday.
Thanks to a pair of turnovers forced by its defense, the Bulls rallied for a 19-14 victory over Columbus at Tropical Park.
Samuel Brooks recovered a fumble right after Columbus quarterback Marcelo Rodriguez was hit by Billy Joseph and returned it 48 yards to the end zone to put the Bulls ahead for good with 7:21 left in the fourth.
“It’s all improvement,” Joseph said. “We’re a family this year, and our coaches keep putting us in position to win big games.”
After each team failed to score, Columbus drove down to the Northwestern 20-yard line with 40 seconds remaining and nearly scored.
Rodriguez lobbed a pass to a wide-open Tyler Harrell in the corner of the end zone. Harrell, who caught a touchdown pass earlier in the game, was falling down and could not hang on to the pass.
Junior Sharod Oliver intercepted a desperation pass in the end zone two plays later to seal the win for Northwestern.
“All that was [in the fourth quarter] was never giving up on a play,” Joseph said. “All that hard work, all we do in practice. That’s what that was right there. We don’t give up.”
The Bulls (2-0) opened a tough stretch that includes games against both Plantation and Delray American Heritage over the next two weeks with a big win over Columbus (1-1), which advanced to the Class 8A semifinals in 2015.
Kai Henry paced Northwestern with 26 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown.
Trailing 14-7 at the start of the fourth, Henry scored from a yard out. But Northwestern missed the extra point, keeping Columbus in front.
Northwestern’s own turnovers led to Columbus taking the lead to start the second half.
The Explorers’ Austin Chacon recovered a fumble that led to a 21-yard TD pass from Rodriguez to Harrell.
Northwestern fumbled on its ensuing drive again when Henry was stripped and Dylan Perez recovered.
The Bulls’ defense stood tough and sacked Rodriguez to end the drive and force Columbus to punt.
Northwestern quarterback Chatarius Atwell totaled 111 yards rushing and passing and ran for a touchdown.
Atwell’s 9-yard TD run early in the second quarter answered a Columbus score on the game’s third play. The Bulls had marched into the red zone on their previous drive but had a field goal blocked.
Rodriguez lobbed a screen pass to sophomore Darren Davis Jr., who caught it and zig-zagged his way 82 yards to the end zone.
MORE FOOTBALL SCORES
Coral Glades 34, Pompano Beach 24
Cypress Bay 25, Taravella 14
Keys Gate 22, Hialeah-Miami Lakes 9
Oxbridge Academy 14, Miami Carol City 7
Stranahan 48, Monarch 2
POSTPONEMENTS AND CANCELLATIONS
Florida School for the Deaf and Blind vs. Halifax Academy, ppd. to Oct 3.
St. John Lutheran vs. Wildwood, ppd. to Sep 3.