The Westerville South High School football team didn’t have the services of two of its top players when it played host to Clayton Northmont on Aug. 31, but that didn’t stop the Wildcats from rolling to a 48-21 win to improve to 2-0 overall.
A slew of players chipped in to replace wide receiver Garry Brown, including Jalen Bell (nine receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns) and Marcus Ball (seven receptions for 82 yards).
Ball, who made multiple starts at quarterback a year ago but played only as a safety during South’s 55-14 opening win at Groveport on Aug. 24, started at wide receiver for the first time.
Northmont dropped to 1-1.
“Everyone knew we were a couple guys short, but other guys filled in and did a great job,” said Ball, whose team was also missing starting defensive lineman Jordan Rodriguez. “I’ve played a little bit of receiver in the past but never this much in one game. I just did what I could to help my team.”
South’s defense gave up only 123 yards in the first half, but the Wildcats turned the ball over three times during that span, setting up two of the Thunderbolts’ touchdowns.
Northmont’s D.J. Hickman picked off a pass by Nick Renzetti at the 50-yard line on the first play from scrimmage, and Cameron Bolton tossed a 50-yard touchdown to Keegan Rottgen on the next play to put Northmont ahead 7-0 just 24 seconds into the game.
South responded with an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 32-yard pass from Renzetti to Bell.
But another mistake by the Wildcats set up the Thunderbolts' next touchdown, as a bad shotgun snap was recovered by Northmont at South’s 30.
Two plays later, Rottgen scored on an 18-yard run to make it 13-7 early in the second quarter.
"We had three turnovers, a couple bad snaps and a lot of penalties, but the key was we stayed in the game and actually led at halftime,” said South coach Rocky Pentello, who declined to comment on the absence of Brown and Rodriguez.
The Wildcats put together a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, which was capped by a 9-yard pass from Renzetti to Torrodd Carter en route to a 14-13 halftime advantage.
It was Northmont that made mistakes in the fourth quarter, as Bolton was intercepted by Tra Jones at the Thunderbolts’ 37.
That set up a 9-yard touchdown run by Darien Miller to put South ahead 35-21 with 8:02 left.
Then 28 seconds later, Ball returned an interception 38 yards for a score to make it 41-21.
“Marcus is a great player and we need to find ways to get him on the field on both sides of the ball,” Pentello said. “Our kids made some big plays in the second half.”
CN—Rottgen 50 pass from Bolton (Rice kick)
WS—Bell 32 pass from Renzetti (Linzell kick)
CN—Rottgen 18 run (kick failed)
WS—Carter 9 pass from Renzetti (Linzell kick)
WS—Bell 34 pass from Renzetti (Linzell kick)
CN—Kenerly 6 run (Williams pass from Bolton)
WS—Bell 9 pass from Renzetti (Linzell kick)
WS—Miller 9 run (Linzell kick)
WS—Ball 38 interception return (kick blocked)
WS—Miller 70 run (Linzell kick)