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Northridge’s playoff hopes dashed by Bessemer City


BESSEMER | With myriad playoff possibilities playing out around the state, Northridge High entered its Class 6A, Region 5 finale with just two possible outcomes.

Win, and make the playoffs. Lose, and the season ends in a week.

After taking a 12-point lead into the second half against Bessemer City, the Jaguars’ offense faltered and the defense was gashed by the Purple Tigers’ ground game in a 14-12 defeat that ended this season’s postseason dreams for Northridge (4-5, 3-4 in region play).

What was already a long walk to the visitor’s locker room seemed like miles for a dejected Jaguars bunch.

“We just didn’t execute,” said Northridge quarterback Tanner Cline, who was 7 of 19 for 59 yards passing. “We didn’t block well, we didn’t make the throws we needed to make. We just weren’t ready to play.”

Jaguars coach Mike Smith did not want his team to shoulder the burden of the loss.

“Injuries took their toll on us. We had a patchwork offense when we came into this game. But I did a poor job getting them ready,” Smith said. “This loss is on me.”

The Purple Tigers (5-4, 3-4) finally got untracked in the second half, racking up 144 of their 209 yards over the final 24 minutes.

Brandon Byner was the star, scoring on a 4-yard run in the third quarter before hauling in the winning score, a 10-yard pass on a fourth-and-7 play with 6:46 left. There were questions about whether Byner got a foot down inbounds at the back right corner of the end zone, but the referees ruled it a score after a brief discussion.

From the outset, Northridge looked confident. On the game’s opening drive, the Jags used nearly eight minutes to march 69 yards before Quentario Aull scored on a 4-yard, fourth-down run.

There was also a question on this scoring play of whether the ball crossed the plane of the goal line, but Northridge wasn’t about to give the points back. A blocked extra point — which would loom large later — left Northridge with a 6-0 advantage.

Late in the first half, the Northridge defense got in on the fun as Lee Wicks picked up a fumble and weaved through several Bessemer City defenders for a 74-yard score. A missed two-point conversion left the Jaguars with a 12-0 halftime advantage, but Smith wasn’t thrilled with his team’s performance to that point.

“We turned the ball over too many times. We had three fumbles in the first half, which is more than we’ve had in a whole game this year,” Smith said.