MINONK — Fieldcrest football coach Nate Lorton didn’t view his team’s season-ending loss Saturday to Sterling Newman as a negative.
Instead, he saw it as inspiration.
Despite the Knights falling to Newman 41-0 in Saturday’s Class 2A first-round playoff game, Lorton saw progress in a team that won the program’s first conference title, had its first winning season in six years and made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“This is the first step for where we’re at for next year,” the fifth-year Fieldcrest coach said. “We’ll watch the film, figure out what we didn’t do and next year we’ll have a better performance.”
Next year, when Lorton and the youthful Knights aim to take the program to the next level.
Unfortunately, Saturday against Newman, Fieldcrest was never able to get started.
The Comets (9-1) left little doubt as they controlled every aspect of the game as they dominated from start to finish.
“It was a total team win,” Newman coach Mike Papoccia said. “Our offense, defense and special teams just played great. I was really worried about their size. I thought their line was going to be the difference — I didn’t know if we could stop their line or not — but our linemen came through and did a great job. Our defense really took away their run game, and we felt that we could hang with their pass, especially with the wind.”
While Newman rolled up the points, the potent Knights offense struggled.
After Fieldcrest averaged 38.8 points per game the previous eight weeks, the Knights ran for just 20 yards and passed for only 20 yards for 40 yards of total offense and three first downs, one of which came via a Newman penalty.
“That’s a Newman Central Catholic defense and that’s a Mike Papoccia defense,” Lorton said.
Fieldcrest junior running back Grant Jochums was limited to 28 rushing yards on 10 carries, while sophomore quarterback Drew Barth was 4-for-18 passing for 20 yards and three interceptions, while on the ground he rushed for negative-eight yards on seven carries.
“We were just trying to get anything going,” Lorton said. “We were pulling every trick that we had. We were just trying to get some positive yards. I don’t know if we even had two first downs, but hats off to Newman Central Catholic. They are a great program and played great defense.”
The Comets — who managed 262 yards rushing and 308 yards of total offense — imposed their offensive will from the start.
On the game’s first possession, Newman methodically drove 65 yards in 12 plays over 5 minutes, 51 seconds. The drive was capped with a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Dillan Heffelfinger, who also ran in the two-point conversion to give the Comets an 8-0 lead with 6:09 left in the first quarter.
Newman added on in the second quarter as running back Jake Snow scored on a 15-yard scamper, and quarterback A.J. Sharp found receiver Shayne Allen for a 23-yard TD pass to give the Comets a 20-0 lead at half.
In the third, running back Mac Olson scored on a 6-yard run, while Heffelfinger found pay dirt again on a 1-yard plunge to give Newman a 34-0 lead after three quarters.
Snow invoked the running clock early in the fourth quarter when he broke free for a 50-yard TD run with 10:58 left.
Snow finished with a game-high 137 yards rushing and two TDs.
“Our defense really hung in there and dug their feet in the trenches for awhile,” Lorton said. “But we just spent too much time on the field as a defense and it wore our guys out.”
The loss ends the prep football careers of six Fieldcrest seniors.
“Our seniors have done a great job,” Lorton said. “There were only four of them until this year when we had six. They have been here, sticking it out and grinding it out when times were tough, but they bought into it and never quit. They just kept grinding away in the offseason.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.