- Val T.
Deming runs for 148 yards, 4 TDs as Zebras hold off Northfield
McKee adds 94 yards, 2 TDs on ground
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
WABASH — Two years ago, the Rochester football team traveled to Northfield and lost 62-0.
On their first trip back Friday, the Zebras showed how far they have come by scoring on their first six possessions and holding off the Norsemen 42-33 at Wilbur Dawes Field.
Alex Deming ran for 148 yards and four touchdowns, and Gavin McKee added 94 yards and two touchdowns rushing for Rochester, who improved to 6-1 overall and 5-1 in the Three Rivers Conference.
Freshman Brant Beck had 71 of his 86 yards rushing in the second half. Rochester had 391 yards of total offense – 372 rushing and 19 receiving.
Northfield dropped to 3-4, 2-4.
Rochester beat Northfield for the first time since 2018 and won at Dawes Field for the first time since a 26-0 win in 2014.
“It’s kind of hard,” Rochester junior two-way lineman Brady Beck said. “We didn’t play to how we have been. It was not a pretty game for us. We did come out with the win, but it should have been a lot better.”
The teams combined for no punts and one turnover.
Northfield lost despite Mason Fisher throwing three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to Eli Kroh. The last was a 40-yarder in which Kroh adjusted to an underthrown pass from Fisher and raced into the end zone with 10.2 seconds left.
But Kameron Pratt’s two-point conversion rushing attempt failed, which kept the lead at two possessions.
Rochester’s Carson Paulik recovered the ensuing onside kick, and the Zebras bled out the remainder of the clock in the victory formation.
The victory formation possession at the end of the game was the only time they did not score.
McKee ran untouched 28 yards on a sweep to the left on the opening possession of the second half to give Rochester a 20-13 lead with 6:44 left in the third quarter.
What might have been the game’s most critical play might have occurred on the ensuing drive. Northfield advanced the ball from their 36 to the Rochester 5-yard-line in 11 plays and had first-and-goal.
But a botched exchange between center Malachi Higgins and Fisher led to a fumble that Rochester’s Owen Prater recovered at the Zebra 2.
“That was pretty huge, I think,” Rochester coach Ron Shaffer said. “The idea that they were ready to go in and score and tie the game or take the lead or whatever – we thought probably they would start going for two – you know, it’s huge. They made a mistake. We pounced on it. That’s a part of the game. So we’re pretty lucky there.”
It would be the last time Rochester would stop the Northfield offense.
On the other hand, Northfield never stopped the Rochester defense.
Following the fumble, Rochester went on a six-play, 98-yard drive. Brant Beck had runs of 27 and 17 yards to get the ball to the 46 at the end of the third quarter.
On the third play of the fourth quarter, McKee tore down the left sideline and ran 53 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-13.
“For him, one, he’s kind of a little bit lucky,” Shaffer said. “The other one was a pretty good play. But yeah, he played big when we needed it.”
Fisher threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Kroh in which he tiptoed down the left sideline and broke a tackle. The extra point was partially blocked, and the lead was 27-19.
Deming went on a 51-yard rampage down the middle of the field, breaking loose from multiple tackles, for a score. Deming’s two-point conversion run made it 35-19 with 8:50 left.
Fisher led Northfield on another 82-yard touchdown drive that he capped with a 7-yard touchdown pass on fourth down. Pratt’s two-point conversion reception made it a one-score game at 35-27 with 2:30 left.
The Norsemen attempted an onside kick, but officials cited them for touching the kick before it went 10 yards. Rochester took over at the Northfield 49, and one play after Beck’s 14-yard run gave them a first down, Deming raced around the left side for a 28-yard touchdown to make it 42-27.
“Pretty big in the second half,” Shaffer said of Deming. “Blocked pretty well in the first half. We saw some things what we wanted to get done, and he was able to assert himself a little bit more in the second half and really had some nice runs. The blockers got him the 10 yards; he took care of the rest, some really nice yards after contact. Nice game for him.”
Each team scored on their first two possessions, and it led to a 13-13 tie at halftime.
Fisher scored on a 2-yard run, but Deming capped a 59-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to tie it at 7. C.J. Long scored on a 4-yard run, but Pablo Rodriguez’s 25-yard extra-point attempt hit the right upright after an illegal procedure penalty.
Rochester then went on an 11-play, 65-yard drive that included a 19-yard pass from Aaron Swango to Colton Ferverda. Deming found the end zone from the 1 with 24.8 seconds left in the half, but Wallace’s extra point attempt was blocked, keeping the game tied at 13.
Kroh’s diving 29-yard reception and a 7-yard pass from Fisher to Ross set up Kroh for an apparent 40-yard field goal with 2.6 seconds left in the half.
Instead, Northfield opted to fake the field goal and throw a pass, but holder Jaxton Peas’ pass attempt fell incomplete at the halftime buzzer.
Peas, who came into the game with a team-high 452 yards rushing, was held to 10 yards. Jordan Kinsey, the fullback in Northfield’s midline option offense, was held to six yards. But Fisher ran for 108 yards and also troubled Rochester with his aerial exploits.
“On their option, I thought we did a really good job of tackling the fullback, but obviously, them starting so low and chopping and all this make it hard to get a rush on the quarterback, which also makes it hard on the DBs to hold it for that long,” Beck said. “So I just think there was a bunch of stuff playing in.”
Northfield two-way lineman Reece Rosen was taken off on a stretcher with an apparent head or neck injury with 9:59 left in the first quarter.
In a showdown between the last remaining unbeatens in the TRC, Tippecanoe Valley routed Maconaquah 57-14. Valley leads the TRC at 6-0, and Rochester, Maconaquah and Southwood are in a three-way tie for second at 5-1.
Rochester 42, Northfield 33
Rochester 7 6 7 22 – 42
Northfield 7 6 0 20 – 33
NF – Mason Fisher 2 run (Pablo Rodriguez kick)
RHS – Alex Deming 3 run (Parker Wallace kick)
NF – C.J. Long 4 run (kick failed)
RHS – Deming 1 run (kick blocked)
RHS – Gavin McKee 28 run (Wallace kick)
RHS – McKee 53 run (Wallace kick)
NF – Eli Kroh 43 pass from Fisher (kick blocked)
RHS – Deming 51 run (Deming run)
NF – Kroh 7 pass from Fisher (Kameron Pratt pass from Fisher)
RHS – Deming 28 run (Wallace kick)
NF – Kroh 40 pass from Fisher (run failed)
Alex Deming Gavin McKee Brant Beck