Wildcats refuse to play dead, squash Lions

Chris Jackett
September 27, 2012
Reprinted with permission of the Novi News

Novi football runs through South Lyon 43-6

As steadily as the rain drizzled down at Wildcat Stadium in Novi last Friday, everything was finally clicking for Novi's football team.

Having lost their first four games, the Wildcats (1-4, 1-2 KLAA Central) steamrolled through South Lyon (2-3, 0-3 Central) 43-6. It was not a gradual buildup either, as the ‘Cats led 20-0 at the end of the first quarter and 33-0 by halftime.

“The kids just played their hearts out,” Novi coach Todd Pennycuff said. “This was just a great effort by our kids, our student body was there supporting us. They had their pep rally this morning and I think it energized the kids with the student body. This was a school win all the way around. I think we saw what that energy team and we were just a transformed football team tonight.”

It was just 3:40 into the game when Novi freshman Emanuel Jackson (73 yards, two touchdowns on eight runs) ran 30 yards up the right side for a touchdown.

Although the extra point attempt failed afterward, Novi senior Blake Boron would pull in an interception less than 90 seconds later to set up a new drive from the Lions' 30 yard line. That drive would end with a 13-yard touchdown run up the right side by Novi senior Matt Forche (101 yards, two touchdowns on 11 runs). Senior Justin Danks' PAT made it 13-0 early.

With 14.4 seconds left in the first quarter, Forche would add a 15-yard touchdown up the right side. Another Danks PAT later and it was 20-0.

“I figured they'd pound the ball tonight and go into their style of ball and just keep pounding and stuff like,” South Lyon coach Mark Thomas said. “Not like us with our option that we had to work with. We didn't help ourselves. Some of the plays that we had, we didn't catch the ball and that didn't help our defense.”

After the Wildcats ate up half of the second quarter clock with 13 plays to move the ball 38 yards, Jackson got back in on the scoreboard with a 1-yard touchdown run up the center. Danks' PAT made it 27-0 with 5:25 to go until halftime.

“(Our running backs) did real well,” Pennycuff said. “I think we had one fumble that we may have lost, but I think they played real well and everybody just really concentrated on ball security.

“It was a real group effort, a family. I saw us come together as a family and really ready to play. We elevated ourselves, which we really needed to do.”

The ensuing Lions drive didn't do South Lion any favors, as senior quarterback Andrew Garcia (2-for-5, 10 yards) would be forced to leave the game after hurting his hand during a collision.

“With all of these other injuries, I don't know what I've got left,” Thomas said. “Like we told our players, they are not an 0-4 team. They're bigger than we are. We got off the bus and we didn't get started right away. We've got the injury bug. That's no excuse. We didn't play very well tonight.”

On the first play after a fair catch kickoff, Novi junior Jeffrey Baker (147 yards, one touchdown on 13 runs) powered up the left side for a 63-yard touchdown run with 2:10 remaining. A Forche conversion rush failed, but the Wildcats took a 33-0 lead into the break.

Danks added a 26-yard field goal 4:35 into the second half to make it 36-0 before the Lions could get on the scoreboard.

Starting at their own 8-yard line, South Lyon drove the ball 92 yards on five plays, with the bulk coming on a 45-yard touchdown reception from sophomore quarterback Anton Skupin (5-for-12, 84 yards, one touchdown, one interception) to senior Connor McRell after a short pass on the right side for McRell's only catch of the night. A PAT by senior Tyler Marcus cut the score to 36-6, but that would be as close as the Lions would get.

Thomas also credited McRell, who had a game-high nine tackles on defense, for his no-quit attitude.

Novi senior Rob Armiak (65 yards, one touchdown on two runs) would tack on a 62-yard touchdown run up the center just 1:37 into the fourth quarter to cap the scoring. Danks' PAT made it 43-6.

Novi junior quarterback Issac Burgess didn't take any chances with even a single throw last week, but kept the handoffs rolling to his running backs as they combined for six touchdowns.

After amassing a combined 55 points in the first four games, the 43-point showing came off 400 total yards of rushing offense for Novi. The Lions were only able to muster 154 yards (60 rushing) against the Wildcats last week in game that resembled last year's wet match-up at The Jungle in South Lyon. However, Novi didn't have the same trouble adjusting to the wetness and even converted six of nine third downs and their lone fourth down Friday.

“We as coaches didn't anticipate anything like this,” Pennycuff said. “We played unbelievable. Our kids took it up five levels.”