Record passing performance lifts Norwin past Butler

Friday, September 27, 2019 | 10:56 PM

Jack Salopek put on a show for his final homecoming in a Norwin uniform.

The senior quarterback threw for career highs of 410 yards and six touchdowns on 19-for-23 passing, and the Knights offense scored 35 points after halftime to pull away from Butler, 49-21, in a Class 6A matchup Friday night.

Norwin (2-4, 1-3) earned its first conference win, but the Golden Tornadoes (0-6, 0-4) stuck around with a ball-control offense that held the score to 14-7 Norwin at half. The Knights also hurt themselves with a pair of touchdowns of longer than 80 yards wiped out because of penalties.

“We were playing against two teams in the first half — obviously, Butler, and ourselves,” Norwin coach Dave Brozeski said. “We made some key penalties and turnovers in situations in the first half, and we talked about responding. I was very proud of how the guys responded second half. … Offensively, we were able to have some production in the second half with Jack throwing the ball pretty well to his receivers, and he spread it out to a lot of receivers.”

Connor Chrisman led Norwin with five catches for 147 yards and a touchdown. Declan O’Brien scored two touchdowns on five receptions and 107 yards, and Sean Pavlic had 80 yards and a score on three catches.

Hayden O’Bryon had two touchdowns — one rushing and one receiving — and Tyler Bilinsky caught Salopek’s sixth touchdown, which established a Norwin record. Brozeski was unsure if the 410 passing yards broke the school’s single-game record.

Norwin’s offense looked nearly unstoppable after the break, scoring on drives of three, three and two plays to build a 35-7 lead. Butler tried to hold up, but a lack of depth led to signs of fatigue in the second half.

“Our defensive coordinator, Bill Elliott, and his staff did a great job getting a plan together because they have some explosive players. We held them in check, but when our offense couldn’t capitalize, that hurt,” Butler coach Eric Christy said. “We have 25 kids dressing, and we’re trying to find ways to get it out.”

Butler had a different sort of standout game from its quarterback, sophomore Cooper Baxter.

Baxter completed just two passes for 51 yards, but he was a workhorse in the rushing game, carrying 42 times for 197 yards — more than half of the Golden Tornadoes’ total offense — and two touchdowns. Besides running between the tackles, Baxter also caused Salopek’s one major miscue on the night, jumping a seam pattern as the free safety for an interception.

“We knew going into this game, maybe more than the opponents we’ve had, that we’d have to lean on (Baxter) more,” Christy said. “Tonight, we thought our chance to stay in the game was to get behind (No.) 7 and let him lead the way.”

Zachary Slomers added 64 rushing yards for Butler, but his biggest contribution was an 85-yard kickoff return for his team’s final touchdown.

For the Knights, the win represents a chance to work back into the playoff picture in Class 6A. With critical road games in the final three weeks against Canon-McMillan and Seneca Valley, the Knights still have a clear path toward a top-six finish despite the 0-3 conference start.

“This is our first conference win, but it’s a huge win,” Brozeski said. “We’re going to enjoy this one tonight, but we’re going to get ready to go get more, starting with getting ready for Central Catholic next week.”

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