Cadets play host to Northmor in regional quarterfinals
BEVERLY — The high school football playoffs are back in Beverly for the third straight year.
After a 9-1 regular season which included a Pioneer Valley Conference championship, Fort Frye clinched the four seed in the Division VI, Region 23 playoffs and will play host to 8-2 Northmor at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Cadets fans have gotten used to watching their team play in the postseason. Under head coach Eric Huck, Fort Frye is making its third consecutive playoff appearance and fifth in the last six seasons. The Cadets are 2-4 in those playoff games, with both wins coming last year en route to a regional finals appearance.
The Golden Knights are a different story, however. Under the guidance of first-year head coach Scott Armrose, Northmor clinched the program’s first ever playoff berth.
“They’re a good football team,” Huck said. “Their quarterback (Demetrius Johnson) is exceptional. They have another good back (Conan Becker) they give the ball to. Our defense will have to be ready to play disciplined football.”
Johnson has had a monster senior season, rushing for 2,475 yards, 11.7 yards per carry and 37 touchdowns. He throws on occasion, completing 34 passes and four touchdowns, but does the bulk of his damage with his legs. Becker added 600 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground this season to complement Johnson. When Johnson does throw it, his top targets are Conor Becker, Wyatt Reeder and 6-foot-7 Kyle Kegley, who also is the team’s kicker.
“(Johnson) is extremely important to our team, obviously,” Armrose said. ” He’s improved a lot as a football player. He’s learned the system and become a quarterback instead of just an athlete. He runs the offense and commands the offense well and is an excellent leader.”
It will be a challenge for Fort Frye’s defense, but the Cadets have conquered almost every challenge they’ve faced this season. Fort Frye allowed 8.1 points per game in the regular season and registered three shutouts. The last two games of the season, the Cadets surrendered just 21 total points to fellow Region 23 playoff teams Shenandoah and Steubenville Catholic Central.
“We’re going to stick with what got us here on both sides of the ball,” Huck said of his gameplan. “Now’s not the time to change things up.”
The biggest thing that got Fort Frye here offensively was a potent rushing attack.
The backfield trio of Tyler Fisher, Tyler Bradford and Evan Schob combined for more than 2,100 yards and and 28 TDs. Much of that success on the ground can be credited to an offensive line that Huck calls one of the best he’s had at Fort Frye.
Armrose was impressed with what he saw from Fort Frye’s rushing attack on film.
“They seem like a physical team,” he said. “They grind it out and really pound it at you on the ground. We know they like to run it.
“I really think this game will be decided up front. It’s going to be one of those games. It’s going to be wet and cold and come down to the big boys up front. Whoever controls the line of scrimmage is going to win the game.”
As well as the Cadets run the ball, they aren’t one-dimensional. Quarterback Tate Engle is in his third year under center and can beat teams with his arm if he has to. This year he completed 52-of-97 attempts for 929 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. His top target is Jesse McLeod, who caught 13 balls for 342 yards and four scores.
Defensively, Fort Frye will lean on linebackers Bradford, Schob and Brenden Huck, who recorded 95, 68 and 65 tackles this season, respectively.
“They have the best linebackers we’ve seen all year,” Armrose said.