Baseline Jug stays in Northville

Chris Jackett
October 11, 2012
Republished with permission of the Novi News

Mustangs defeat Novi 21-14 in wet overtime affair

The battle for the Baseline Jug was anyone's game last Friday, but Northville's gridiron gang came away as the victory for a fourth-straight year.
The Mustangs (5-2, 4-1 KLAA Central) held on for a wet and wild 21-14 overtime victory over Novi (1-6, 1-4 Central). The baseline battle came to an end in overtime on a soaked Northville turf when Mustang junior Joseph Hewlett (13-for-22, 188 yards) connected with senior Jake Hansen (63 yards on seven receptions) for a lateral pass and 7-yard touchdown run into the left corner of the end zone and the Wildcats failed to respond on their four attempts.
“I think our players reaction says it all,” Northville coach Matt Ladach said. “It doesn't matter if it's one game, two, three in a row, anytime we win this game it's big for our kids. It was evenly matched the whole way. I don't think there was a real turning point, I think it was a battle from start to finish. This was a team effort. There's no one individual that just did this all. It was 82 players working together, 11 on the field at once just playing Northville football.”
Scoring was few and far between early on in the contest, with Northville senior Thomas Huber (54 yards on 15 runs) scoring on a 1-yard run with 2:44 left in the first quarter. After junior Zach Wilds converted the point-after touchdown kick, the 7-0 Mustang lead held until halftime.
“I'm so proud of that kid,” Ladach said of Huber. “He worked his tail off. It looked like he might not be able to play this year, but he was able to get back and, to have the kind of games he's been able to have lately, has just been tremendous for him.”
A missed 39-yard field goal by Wilds early in the second quarter was the closest thing to another score the crowd would get in the first half.
The second half was a different story, as Novi senior Robbie Deighton returned the opening kickoff 64 yards up the right side to the Mustang 30-yard line. The play led to a 17-yard touchdown run by junior Jeffrey Baker (142 yards on 21 runs) just 2:10 later, which tied the game 7-7 after a Justin Danks PAT kick.
“I think Baker's just getting better and better and better,” Novi coach Todd Pennycuff said.
It only took the Mustangs 3:31 to respond, as Hewlett tossed a pass over the shoulder and into the outstretched arms of junior Nick Stegmeyer (65 yards on two catches), who broke up the center of the field 38 yards for a touchdown. Wilds' PAT made it 14-7 Northville as the two teams then traded three-and-out drives.
A few fumbles in the rain and failed drives later by both teams, Wilds missed a 28-yard field goal attempt wide left. The offenses struggled until Novi freshman Emanuel Jackson (179 yards on 20 runs) broke free for an 83-yard touchdown run with 2:35 left in the game. Danks' PAT tied it 14-14.
“Emanuel Jackson is starting to mature,” Pennycuff said. “We're seeing maturity out of him not only football-wise, but also being a young man, we're seeing it at practice. He's a whole different kid than he was stepping onto that practice field from eighth grade. He's not a freshman anymore. He's playing like an upperclassman. He's going to be fun to watch in the future.”
The Mustangs' ensuing nine-play drive ended with a turnover on downs at the Wildcats' 27-yard line after a fourth-and-two incomplete pass.
Baker and Jackson then completed 40- and 23-yard runs, respectively, on the next two plays, bringing the Wildcats to Northville's 10-yard line with 14 seconds remaining. However, a 27-yard field goal attempt by Danks was blocked by Mustang senior Sam Tacconelli and bounced out of bounds at the Mustang 22-yard line.
“What we did defensively took a lot of discipline,” Ladach said. “For our players to maintain that type of discipline for 48 minutes, plus an overtime, that says a lot about the type of kids we have at Northville High School.”
Unable to move the ball in the final seconds, the Mustangs got the ball first in overtime, leading to Hansen's touchdown on second-and-seven.
Novi's overtime attempt started with a false start penalty, followed by two short runs of four and one yard by Jackson and Baker, respectively, followed by two incomplete pass attempts by junior quarterback Issac Burgess (0-for-3).
“It's high school football. It's probably one of the best games, this rivalry game, that the kids could be a part of,” Pennycuff said. “I think the kids will have a lot of memories on either side. But you've got to have a winner and loser and, unfortunately, we came up a little short.
“The biggest thing is, our kids are there and working hard, but I want to give credit to the student section that came out. It helped us at South Lyon, it helped us tonight. It's great to see that Novi Wildcat school spirit. I think that's a tribute to our whole school district.”
Both defenses made the game interesting early on, as five combined players - Novi's Deighton and Mark Ryan, Northville's Tacconelli, Bradley Merlo and Zach Tofilski - finished with eight total tackles each. Novi also had impressive defensive games from seniors Grant Wheeler (14 tackles) and Lucas Buck (seven tackles).
“The defense really stepped up and made some great plays,” Pennycuff said. “I'm real proud of them. Lucas Buck really made some great plays; Mark Ryan. I thought our D-line stepped up, as well as our secondary. They got 14 points on us. I don't think they've been held to that all year.”