Tigers cap emotional week with win
GREEN POND A return to the routine no matter how brief or how forced is often the best grief-therapy.
For high school football teams, nothing is a bigger part of the normal routine then playing games on Friday night.
Northwestern did just that, beating Notre Dame 31-0. The victory added at a small touch of joy to what had been an extremely sad week for the Tigers.
"This has been a very tough week. I'm just glad its over," Tiger coach Bob Mitchell said in reference to Monday's car accident that claimed the life of Northwestern senior cheerleader Shaunice Jarjous. "From an emotional perspective, this has been the worst week I've ever spent in my 33 years of teaching and coaching.
"The outpouring of grief and emotion has been unbelievable. Shaunice was such a quality person, a great person. The entire school community, including our football team, has had a very difficult week."
The week left Mitchell wondering what kind of mental state his team would be against Notre Dame.
Senior Kevin Oxley, a close friend of Jarjous, got the Tigers on the right track early.
Oxley's 46-yard punt return just minutes into the game led to a Colton Breininger three-yard touchdown run with 9:44 still left in the opening quarter.
"We were very flat emotionally prior to the game," said Mitchell. "I think Kevin's punt return was huge because it gave us a little lift and helped us get the early lead.
Oxley said it was a hard week and he was glad to finally get on the field.
"It was tough," he said. "We played the game for Shaunice and tried to rally around [teammate] Bazz [Jarjous], who is the younger brother of the victim.
"It was nice to get that early punt return because I knew the team need a lift."
With its defense dominating the opening half, the Tigers were able to take advantage of excellent field position and push across two more touchdowns.
Quarterback Trevor German got one on a four-yard keeper. german than hit Garrett Lerner with a 25-yard pass with 3:39 left in the half to make it 21-0.
"Notre Dame has been struggling offensively so that's what we wanted to do defensively and that's what we expected to do," said Mitchell. "I could tell a number of our kids were playing with heavy hearts in that first half. I think finally in the second half they got back to what football is suppose to be fun."
A 25-yard TD pass from German to Oxley and a 24-yard field goal by Andrew Deutsch finished off the scoring in the second half.
"We had been struggling finishing drives this season and tonight we did that a lot better," said Mitchell. Other than the last drive in the fourth quarter where we had to settle for the field goal, we were able to get touchdowns out of our scoring opportunities."
The Tigers also were able to get back into a normal routine on the football field. It might have been the perfect therapy.