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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Norwell quarterback Piercen Harnish, left, gets away from Columbia City defensive lineman Dakota Goldwood during the first half of Friday's sectional game at Norwell.

Norwell wins playoff opener over Columbia City

– And people say there's no instant replay in high school football.

It wasn't quite instant – more like seven days removed – but a week after Norwell ended the regular season with a two-touchdown victory over Columbia City, the Knights hit rewind and played it again Friday night.

The replay was a 45-28 decision over the Eagles in a first-round Class 4A sectional game, the surging Knights' fifth straight win after they opened the season 0-5.

"Anytime you can win this time of year, that's good," Norwell coach Jeff Miller said. "Half the teams are done, and we're not in that half."

Especially on an evening that was a sea cruise, until it wasn't.

Norwell (5-5) led 31-0 after Graham Denney's 22-yard field goal with 9:13 to play, and then it got interesting. Quarterback Trevor Bolt finally uncorked a Columbia City offense that had been bottled up all night, scoring on a 2-yard run to end a drive that was given aid and comfort by a horse-collar penalty against the Knights.

Then the Eagles (3-7) recovered an onside kick, and two plays later Bolt hit Dayne Asplund from 21 yards out to make 31-15 with 7:21 to play.

After Norwell fullback Adam Nahrwold made it 38-15 with a 9-yard run, Bolt hit Asplund again, this time on a 62-yard bomb.

Then the Eagles recovered another onside kick, and Bolt hit Justin Bachelder for 38 yards to the 2-yard line, setting up another touchdown and closing the lead to 38-28 with 3:21 to play.

But when the Eagles attempted another onside kick, Reggie Hayes covered it for Norwell, and the crisis had passed. Norwell quarterback Piercen Harnish, who ran for 176 yards and two touchdowns, suckered Columbia City with a 46-yard touchdown off a fake reverse to Hayes, then killed Columbia City's last shot with an interception at the 2-yard line.

"We actually pulled some guys out, and they hit some big shots," Harnish said. "So we went back, a couple of the starters went back, and we just finished it off.

"It's a lot easier to prepare (for a team you've just played), but that means it's harder for both offenses to prepare. They shut down a couple of our plays, because they'd seen them the week before. But that's when you hit them with different stuff."

The different stuff came in handy in a game that Norwell seemed to have put away, thanks to a generally efficient offense and a defense that forced three turnovers and kept the end zone clean until … well, until it didn't.

"Yeah, we got some teachable moments out of this," Miller said. "I think we let up a little bit, and give credit to Columbia City, they kept fightin' and clawin', kept makin' plays. Then we came back and put a score on there to put it out of reach.

"But we executed pretty well. We were up 31-0 with (nine) minutes to go. We'll take that."