CUMBERLAND — The early-season focus had been on the offense but it was the defense that stole the show.
The Cumberland football team shutout two-time defending Heart O' North Conference champion Northwestern 28-0 at Endeavor Field in Cumberland on Friday night.
The Beavers kept the steady Northwestern ground game in check while also forcing three turnovers to move to 4-0 on the season and hand the Tigers their first regular season loss since 2017.
"They force you to make sure you’re tackle people," Cumberland coach Corey Berghammer said of Northwestern."They force you and keep the pressure on you, and I thought we played with a lot of energy tonight on defense, maybe more energy than we’ve seen in a long time, and we really locked into our assignments."
Cumberland held a 12-0 lead in the third quarter but with the Tigers (3-1) threatening the Beavers defense made two of their biggest plays of the game to keep the momentum and pull away for good. Northwestern had just completed a 33-yard pass from Braden Trautt to Harrison Nelson down to the Beaver 27-yard line. The next play, Cumberland got pressure on the quarterback and forced an errant pass that was tipped right into the hands of Travis Runberg for the Cumberland interception.
The Beavers weren't able to do anything with it and punted back to Northwestern. Two plays into the next Tiger drive Trautt was escaping pressure when he coughed up the ball as Milan Monchilovich forced a fumble. A pileup ensued but the ball poked out where Isaac Runstrom found it and he scampered 37-yards for the score as Cumberland took a 20-0 lead with 4 minutes left in the third quarter.
Coming into the game it was easy to look towards the matchup of a Cumberland offense averaging 49 points per game through it first three games and a Northwestern defense that had only allowed 12 points on the year, yet it was the Beaver defense slowing down Northwestern that made all the difference.
"We struggled early offensive-wise. They picked it up for us — picked up the slack," said Cumberland quarterback Maddux Allen of the defense. "We got that fumble for the touchdown, they went three-and-out a couple times, and put us in great position to score. They’re the reason we won this game, for sure."
Cumberland put the game away with a 17-play drive that lasted 8:40 and covered 94 yards as Allen connected with receiver Jack Martens for 20 yards to put the Beavers up 28-0 with 5:40 to play.
The Beavers had taken a 6-0 advantage as running back Sam Schradle found daylight on a 13-yard carry on Cumberland's second drive on the game. Jack Martens added to the lead with about 4 minutes to go before the half a 1-yard reception on a pop pass from Allen.
"To be able to beat a team like Northwestern anytime is a great accomplishment but we’re certainly not out of the woods yet," Berghammer said. "We have three conference games yet to continue to play with. It feels good tonight. It feels good for our kids and it was great to see all the hard work they put in to kind of pay off for them a little bit with the win at home."
Allen was 20-of-26 for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Martens had 16 receptions for 115 yards and was on the receiving end of both of Allen's scores as Cumberland looked to get the ball in the senior receiver's hands with a number of quick shovel passes on the jet sweep. Schradle added 60 yards on the ground on 12 attempts.
Northwestern was led by 38 yards on nine rushes from Greg Ohman and 37 on 12 attempts from Colin Trautt. Cumberland held a 214-129 advantage in total yards.
The Beavers will look to stay unbeaten on the year when they host St. Croix Falls next Friday.
"Just like coach said in the huddle — the job’s not done," Allen said. "That’s how we’re taking it. Every day of practice, every week of practice, the job’s not done."