Salem defense helps Rocks to win over Novi

Chris Jackett
September 13, 2012
Reprinted with permission of the Novi News

Wildcats drop 30-13 contest in Plymouth

In a battle of two run-happy teams, Plymouth Salem capitalized on a few untimely Novi turnovers to get their first victory over the Wildcats in their five seasons together in the KLAA.

Salem (3-0, 1-0 KLAA Central) struck first in the 30-13 victory in Plymouth.

After Wildcat junior quarterback Issac Burgess (1-for-6) connected with sophomore Matt Sabo for a 14-yard gain on fourth and three during the opening drive, Novi (0-3, 0-1 Central) was at second and eight on Salem's 10-yard line when Salem senior Mike McNamara picked off a pass attempt at his own 5-yard line and carried it back 37 yards to Novi's 42-yard line.

Four plays later, junior Drake Jordan (44 yards on seven runs) broke up the right side for a 27-yard touchdown run that would lead to a 7-0 lead following junior Alex Kenrick's point-after kick with 5:11 left in the first quarter.

The score would hold for the rest of the first half as both teams continued to run the ball, but Salem continued to create turnovers whenever Novi threatened in the red zone. The Rocks even stopped the Wildcats on fourth and one midway through the second quarter, but couldn't score themselves.

“A little sloppy and flat early. We knew going in that they were going to do what they were going to do and grind it out,” Salem coach Kurt Britnell said. “We hung in there and adjusted at halftime and got some big plays to kind of bust things open. I'll take 30 points in seven possessions. That's not a lot. It's been ugly at times, but I'll take 3-0 ugly over 0-3 pretty.”

A failed fourth and two attempt by Novi at their own 46-yard line led to Salem senior quarterback Jacob Deprez (5-for-10, 75 yards) connecting with junior Michael Hoover (53 yards on two catches) for a 43-yard touchdown reception up the right side 3:11 into the second half. However, the two failed to connect for a two-point conversion attempt, leaving the score at 13-0 as a light rain drizzle began to fall.

“They're big and physical front, but so are we. That's kind of our motto, too. We pound it, pound it and then go up over the top with some play action passes,” Britnell said. “The more guys who step in and get touches will help us down the road. I don't want to talk playoffs yet, but they have that playing experience and they can step in and play without missing a beat.”

Despite a big 25-yard run by Burgess (20 net yards on three attempts) and strip by McNamara (48 yards on seven runs), both teams decided to hold the bulk of the scoring until the fourth quarter.

Within the first three minutes of the final quarter, Salem junior Gu'Woin Ingram (64 yards on six runs) ran in a 14-yard touchdown run up the left side and Novi junior Jeffrey Baker (172 yards on 23 runs) responded with a 40-yard touchdown run up his left side. The Rocks converted their extra point and Novi senior Ryan Caputo couldn't settle the ball in time for a kick by senior Justin Danks, so Salem blocked the Wildcats' extra point.

“Baker is just really coming on,” Novi coach Todd Pennycuff said. “He's a kid that, in practice, is one of our hardest workers. I think he's just getting better and better with each game. And our offensive line, we're typically outmanned in terms of size and we can still move the ball. We can move the ball up field, but we can't seem to put it all together to get that score. The thing with Baker is he's starting to learn to wait on his blocks.”

With Salem ahead 20-6 with nine minutes remaining, another big 24-yard run by McNamara and a horsecollar penalty to the Wildcats put the Rocks 10 yards from the end zone. It was down to fourth and three on Novi's 5-yard line when Kenrick nailed a field goal to put Salem up 23-6.

A failed fourth-and-five attempt by the Wildcats at their own 36-yard line gave the Rocks prime position with 35 yards to go to the end zone. Ingram didn't make the crowd wait as he took the ball up the right side all 35 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the Salem drive to give the Rocks a 30-6 lead with 3:06 remaining.

Novi grinded the ball up the field and Baker found a hole up the middle for a 38-yard touchdown with 17.7 seconds remaining, but it wasn't enough even after Danks' PAT made it 30-13.

As a whole, Novi outgained Salem 345 yards to 277 and dominated time of possession 30:35 to 17:25 while converting seven of 13 third downs, but it was the Rocks who got the stat that mattered most as the final score provided the seniors with retribution for last year's 42-0 loss at Novi.

“I would say we probably have more offense than they do, but that's not the stat that matters; it's the scoreboard,” Pennycuff said. “We're moving the chains, we're playing good defense. We're just not good enough where we can overcome a lot of turnovers and silly mistakes.”