OSSIAN – Norwell broke through on Friday night.
The program's ascent under coach Josh Gerber continued with a signature 43-8 victory over New Haven at the Knights' exquisite year-old home field. Norwell quarterback Eli Riley accounted for four touchdowns – three on the ground – rolled up 220 total yards and added an interception on defense for good measure.
With the homecoming victory, the Knights improved to 4-1 for the first time since 2009 and broke a 10-game losing streak against the Bulldogs (3-2).
It's been a rapid rise for Norwell over the last two years after the program won only five games in Gerber's first three seasons. The Knights' head coach confessed himself excited after the runaway victory.
“It's just fun, I'm excited for the kids, I'm excited for the guys I coach with, I'm excited for the student body, it was just a fun night here,” Gerber said.
“Really we're just proud of the way the kids played,” he added.
“It is a big win, to knock off one of the teams that's in the upper echelon of the conference. We've been looking for one of these wins for a while.”
The game started inauspiciously for Norwell as Riley threw an interception on just the fourth play of the game. New Haven took over in Knights territory but on the Bulldogs' second play from scrimmage, quarterback Jakar Williams was hit in the backfield and had the ball stripped. Senior Joel Rinkenberger picked it up and raced 61 yards the opposite direction for the go-ahead touchdown.
“Our (defensive) line made a great play,” Rinkenbeger said. “I just saw the fumble and I thought the play was dead, but I just started running and I heard the crowd going crazy and went in for a touchdown.”
It was the start of a long night for Williams, one of the conference's most dynamic players, who was bottled up by the vicious Norwell defense. The New Haven quarterback completed just 8 off 22 passes for 112 yards and threw two interceptions against a Norwell defense that has given up only 6.4 points per game and held opponents to single digits four times.
“We've been saying for a long time to our guys, 'Make your goal to be one of the best defenses in the northern half of the state,'” Gerber said. “I feel like we have a lot of talent, we have a lot of aggressive kids. ... We want to be known for our defense, we want to hang our hat on that.”
After Riley's defense gave him the lead, he quickly extended it, taking a quarterback draw on the second play of Norwell's next offensive possession 63 yards for a touchdown. He then intercepted a pass late in the first quarter and finished the drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Brege. By halftime it was 33-0 and the Knights were able to cruise.