North Johnston shot out to an early lead and then dominated in all facets of the game to upend Washington 33-6 giving itself a shot to share the Eastern Plains 2A Conference title with a win in the last week of the regular season.
Trey Whitley helped the Panthers (7-3, 3-1) build a 15-0 lead in the first quarter as North Johnston got into rhythm early for a perfect start.
Whitley found Jonathan Gonzalez down the sideline for a 33-yard touchdown toss on the Panthers first possession of the game to stake the hosts to the 7-0 lead.
After Washington’s Tyler Harrell’s punt was blocked setting up North Johnston at the Pam Pack 2-yard line, Whitley used his legs on a quarterback keeper and then on the two-point conversion to give the Panthers the 15-0 lead.
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Washington (3-7, 3-1) drew to within 15-6 on a Hykeem Ruffin touchdown run in the second quarter but were stymied by an imposing North Johnston run defense.
North Johnston won the special teams battle as the Panthers blocked a punt and recovered an onside kick while Washington left points on the board with a missed field goal and extra point. In addition, the Pam Pack turned the ball over twice in the second half with the biggest blow coming when North Johnston’s Trey Whitley ended a promising Pam Pack drive late in the third quarter with an interception.
With Washington threatening to cut into North Johnston’s lead late in the second quarter, the Panthers’ defense stood tall. Ben Jaramillo and Evander Stancil combined for a huge tackle for loss on second down before Michael Cain’s sack of the Pam Pack’s Frederick Holscher on third down kept Washington from adding points to the scoreboard, preserving the 15-6 Panthers lead heading into half.
THEY SAID IT
It’s been some time since North Johnston has had a chance to play for a conference title and Panthers coach Jonathan Riba has been trying to prepare his team on how to ready itself for important games in November.
“I told them this week in practice that they’ve never been in this situation before; it’s been years since we’ve been like this,” said North Johnston coach Jonathan Riba. “For me as a first year head coach and doing something like this, it’s trying to figure that aspect out with these kids that’s pretty interesting and whatever’s happening, they’re buying into what’s going on.”
THREE TO KNOW
Trey Whitley, North Johnston: The elusive junior quarterback was a handful for the Pam Pack to deal with as Whitley hurt Washington in the air and on the ground. Whitley finished with 94 yards rushing and one score, added 61 yards passing including a 33-yard touchdown strike to Jonathan Gonzalez and came up with a key interception as Washington was driving late in the third quarter.
Suae Poe, Washington: When Washington was able to create some running lanes for Poe, the senior running back showcased his speed and finished the game with 69 yards on 19 carries.
Ben Jaramillo, North Johnston: Jaramillo was an unmovable force on the Panthers defensive line that wreaked havoc on any plans Washington had of running up the middle.
“It was a team effort, really,” North Johnston’s Ben Jaramillo said of slowing down the vaunted Washington running game. “It took multiple people on the outside and inside. In the end, we saw their best guy and we slowed him down.”
BY THE NUMBERS
95: Rushing yards for the Panthers’ Michael Lawrence
10: Sacks by the Pam Pack’s Turner Ragland for the season.
12: Tackles for loss totaled by the North Johnston defensive unit.
6: Interceptions on the year for Washington’s Nazzir Hardy.
1: North Johnston wins over Washington in series history as the Panthers lost to the Pam Pack each of the previous three matchups.