CROMWELL >> The Gilbert/Northwestern YellowJackets stuck to their game plan and used the running game and hardnosed defense to hold on to beat conference rival Cromwell, 34-27.
“We found ourselves today,” said Yellowjackets head coach Scott Salius. “We figured out our identity; ground and pound.”
Senior running back, Tony Ortiz led the way on the ground for the Yellowjackets (1-0) racking up 234 of the teams 419 yards on the ground for two touchdowns.
“Our goal was to get the first win of the season,” said Ortiz, who scored touchdowns on two long runs of 74 and 66-yards in the first half. “We got everyone back and healthy it’s great.”
“No, I’ve never rushed for 200 yards before,” he said after the game. “I’ve had a few games with one long run.”
Ortiz wasn’t the only Yellowjacket making the big play, quarterback, John Lippincott audibled out of the original play and called his own number on two separate occasions, running right up the gut to score touchdowns on runs of 76 and 50-yards.
“When I got to the line I saw one linebacker and then the safety over, I told my center (Joe Columbie) to block the linebacker and I would,” said senior captain Lippincott.
Coach Salius had no problem with Lippincott changing the plays at the line.
“That was all him, he called it at the line,” said Salius. “He is the smartest player in the program.”
Cromwell head coach Chris Eckert wasn’t surprised by how well Ortiz ran, but both of Lippincott’s runs caught the Panthers (0-1) off guard.
“Ortiz is a very good player; he is the best running back in the conference. We knew that if we didn’t stop him it would be a long day,” said Eckert. “We didn’t expect two 50-plus -yard quarterback sneaks for touchdowns.”
The Yellowjackets got on the board first on Ortiz’s first long touchdown run, to up 6-0, after Columbie’s extra point missed.
Cromwell marched right back down and capped off their drive with a field goal by senior Mike McNally.
Ortiz then broke his second long touchdown run to put the Yellowjackets up 13-3, they then held the Panthers who punted.
The punt rolled all the way to the one-yard line, putting the Yellowjackets with their backs to the end zone. On the ensuing play, the Panthers tackled Ortiz in the end zone for safety cutting their deficit to 13-5.
Gilbert/Northwestern, after getting the ball back, scored on Lippincott’s 76-yard run, to give then a 20-5 advantage.
“The big plays are always a killer for your opponent,” said Lippincott.
The Panthers who only have nine seniors on their team, two who have played on the varsity level, began to mount their comeback.
Kristian Sapp, a freshman playing in his first game, scored his first career touchdown on a 10-yard run to make it an eight point game.
“Sapp played hard,” said Eckert. “He has taken the role since the preseason and run with it.”
Lippincott then scored on his 50-yard touchdown run and the Panthers answered right back when sophomore quarterback Mavric Pelletier scored on a 5-yard run to cut the Yellowjackers lead to 27-19.
Sapp then scored on a nine-yard run and scored the Panthers two-point conversion try to tie the game at 27-27.
“The sky is the limit for him,” said Eckert.
Sapp finished the game with 79 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
After getting the ball back the Yellowjackets stuck to their plan and ran the ball well down the field, ending with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Lippincott to Ortiz, his third of the game, giving them a 34-27 lead.
The defenses took over in the fourth quarter, holding each other to punts and one turnover when the Panthers intercepted Lippincott in the end zone.
“We found ourselves in the second-half,” said Salius. “We got the confidence we didn’t have in the preseason.”
Gilbert/Northwestern will play their home opener on Saturday against Granby at 1 p.m. Cromwell will go on the road and play at Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton on Friday at 7 p.m.
Gilbert/Northwestern 34, Cromwell 27
GN- 6 14 14 0 – 34
Cromwell 3 9 15 0 – 27
Scoring plays: GN-Tony Ortiz 74-yard run, extra point miss; C-Mike McNally field goal; GN- Tony Ortiz 66-yard run, extra point good; C-Safety; C-Kristian Sapp 10-yard run, extra point good; GN-John Lippincott 50-yard run, extra point good; Mavric Pelletier 5-yard run, extra point good; C-Kristian Sapp 9-yard run, two point conversion good; Tony Ortiz 7-yard catch from John Lippincott, extra point good.
Passing: John Lippincott 6-16, 86 yards, one touchdown, one interception; Seth Dayton 1-1, 15 yards.
Rushing: Tony Ortiz 234 yards; John Lippincott 170; Tucker Kreh 7; Matthew Nieves 5; Seth Dayton 3.
Receiving: Paxton Lewis-Franklin 2 catches, 31 yards; Seth Dayton 1 catch, 27 yards; Tony Ortiz 2 catches, 18 yards, one touchdown; Aiden Tellier 1 catch, 15 yards, Collin Wolfe 1 catch, 10 yards.
Passing: Mavric Pelletier 18-34, 187 yards.
Rushing: Kristian Sapp 79 yards, two touchdowns; Mavric Pelletier 29 yards, one touchdown.
Receiving: Jarius Bailey 7 catches, 79 yards; Antwamn Burney 4 catches, 57 yards; Kristian Sapp 3 catches 26 yards; Emir Cirikovic 3 catches, 21 yards; Cole Bradley 1 catch 4 yards.
Records: Gilbert/Northwestern 1-0, Cromwell 0-1.