WESTFIELD TWP. — His initials stand for Thomas Dale, but they could just as easily mean touchdown.
Northwest quarterback T.D. Culp rushed for three scores and threw for two more Friday night as the Indians lit up defenseless Cloverleaf 42-22 in the non-league season opener for both teams.
“It feels like a machine,” the third-year starter said. “It feels like everything is going right.”
In leading Northwest to 478 yards total offense, Culp rushed 12 times for 125 yards, including TDs of 15, 17 and 30 yards, and completed 13-of-22 passes for 225 yards, including scores of 41 and 54 yards.
“Their quarterback is good,” Colts coach Bob Lake said.
On this night, the Cloverleaf defense was not, especially the secondary.
Culp completed 9-of-14 for 217 yards in the first half alone, opening the scoring with a 54-yard strike to tight end Jackson Schultz and later finding Johnny Masters for a 41-yard TD down the left sideline on third-and-19.
Schultz, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound tight end, had all four of his catches, which totaled 133 yards, in the first half.
“Some big plays hurt us,” Lake said. “We worked all week on stopping No. 37, the tight end. We didn’t take that away from them and that was disappointing.
“They ran by us, there’s no question about it. We worked hard on staying deep and they still got by us. That’s something we’ve got to correct.”
Cloverleaf’s run defense wasn’t great, either, as Northwest, operating out of a spread offense, rushed 32 times for 253 yards, a 7.9-yard average.
The Indians, an independent Division IV team that went 2-8 last year but returned nine starters on offense and seven on defense, had rushing plays of 15, 17, 22, 22, 26, 30 and 40 yards and passing plays of 14, 17, 18, 21, 41, 47 and 54 yards.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Culp said. “A lot of it comes down to breaking down film and reading the defense. It’s all a matter of preparation and execution.”
Having made the playoffs 10 of the last 12 seasons — Northwest has missed them two out of the last three years — the Indians certainly did that.
Cloverleaf, now a D-III team after going 3-7 a year ago, remains a work in progress.
Tailback Devin Cunningham, operating out of the Wildcat about a third of the night, carried the ball 31 times for 100 yards and a pair of short touchdown runs, but the Colts did not display much explosiveness en route to 188 yards total offense.
Junior quarterback Garrison Flora was 9-for-15 for 73 yards and three interceptions, one of which was returned 31 yards for a TD by Jordan Radcliff. Flora threw a 25-yard TD to Austin Smith, but that came on a pass that deflected right off the hands of a Northwest defensive back.
“He’s going to get better,” Lake said. “It’s his first year in a full spread, so he’ll start making those reads.”
The final score could have been worse, but the Colts got fumble recoveries from James Abend, Jared Talmon and Tyler Beery and recorded a safety when Northwest dropped a punt snap in the end zone and was forced to fall on the ball.
The latter pulled the Colts, who trailed 14-0, 28-7 and 35-13, within 35-22 with 1:27 to play in the third quarter, but they went three-and-out after the free quick. Culp then basically sealed the deal with a 30-yard TD scamper with 8:37 left.
“We could never get to that one-possession game,” Lake said. “I felt the momentum turn on that safety, but we didn’t do anything with the ball after that.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
Northwest 42, Cloverleaf 22
NORTHWEST 7 21 7 7 — 42
CLOVERLEAF 0 13 9 0 — 22
N — Jackson Schultz 54 pass from T.D. Culp (Zach Massengale kick), 6:19.
N — Culp 17 run (Massengale kick), 11:52.
C — Devin Cunningham 1 run (Kyle Sasinka kick), 8:19.
N — Johnny Masters 41 pass from Culp (Massengale kick), 6:57.
N — Jordan Radcliff 31 interception return (Massengale kick), 5:24.
C — Cunningham 3 run (pass failed), :53.3.
N — Culp 15 run (Massengale kick), 9:26.
C — Austin Smith 25 pass from Garrison Flora (Sasinka kick), 5:55.
C — Safety (Punter tackled in end zone), 1:27.
N — Culp 30 run (Massengale kick), 8:37.