Rockets shoot through Novi homecoming

Chris Jackett
October 8, 2012
Republished with permission of the Novi News

Glenn comeback hands Wildcats 24-20 loss

In a game of big runs, Westland John Glenn came from behind and never led until it mattered, spoiling Novi's homecoming.

Up 20-7 at halftime, Novi (1-7, 1-4 KLAA Central) allowed 17 unanswered points in a 24-20 loss to Glenn (2-6, 1-4 South) in a Kensington Conference gridiron crossover.

“Second half we just didn't execute,” Novi coach Todd Pennycuff said. “We didn't execute offensively, we didn't execute defensively on things. We gave up a big play. You can't turn over the ball and get threes and outs and expect to win. We made some mental errors with just not protecting the football. That's kind of been our Achilles heel all season, just not protecting the football. We've got to do a better job preparing and staying focused in the game and getting threes and out.

“I think, like any 16-17 year old kids, they're a little frustrated. They know they're better than their record is. We're searching as a team for how to fix it. I think it's more of a mental issue than anything else. It's not a talent issue.”

Freshman Wildcat Emanuel Jackson (132 yards on 18 runs) got a good taste of his first homecoming, showing talent the ‘Cats hope will continue to grow for years to come as he scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 20-yard run 4:46 into the game, which put Novi up 7-0 after senior Justin Danks nailed the point-after touchdown kick.

Just 35 seconds into the second quarter, senior Matt Forche (69 yards on six runs) broke cut to the right before breaking free to the left corner of the end zone on a 46-yard touchdown run. However, Danks' PAT kick was blocked, which would come back to haunt the ‘Cats later on despite a 13-0 lead at the time.

The Rockets gave the visiting bleachers something to cheer about on the ensuing kickoff, which senior Damario Jones (95 yards on four runs, 117 yards on three kickoff returns) returned 93 yards up the right sideline for a touchdown that, after a PAT by senior Alex Isaevski, cut the Novi lead to 13-7.

On two separate occasions in the first half, the Wildcats lost the ball on a fumble, but recovered it on an interception by senior Robbie Deighton during the very next play.

“Deighton did a great job. He made some plays on their best kid. He really stepped up this week,” Pennycuff said. “I think Lucas Buck again, week in and week out, just comes out and plays his heart out. Each week I'm mentioning his name and, when I see the film, I'm even more amazed.”

After a series of runs by Jackson and junior Jeffrey Baker (60 yards on 13 runs), Jackson gave Novi some breathing room with a 17-yard carry up the right sideline with 70 seconds left until halftime. Danks' PAT made it 20-7.

“I think we have a good back field,” Pennycuff said. “Our issue in the backfield is not talent, it's just fundamental ball security. John Glenn has some talented running backs, as well. They were able to have some ball security and that's kind of the difference. They did their job protecting the ball and we didn't.”

Following a failed Wildcat drive to start the second half, the Rockets shot up the field on the second play of their drive, an 85-yard run up the right side by Jones that was very identical to his earlier kickoff return. Isaevski's PAT made the deficit 20-14 just 4:47 into the half and, following a three-and-out by Novi, Glenn pushed the ball up field for a 28-yard field goal by Isaevski after stalling at Novi's 11-yard line with 2:05 to go in the third quarter.

Up 20-17 mid-drive to start the fourth quarter, the Wildcats and Rockets traded failed drives before Deighton had his third takeaway of the game with a fumble recovery to set Novi up on the 50-yard line. But Baker lost the ball on a fumble on the very next play, giving Glenn the ball back on the 50 with 4:45 to go and a three-point deficit.

The Rockets marched up field with a 10-play drive that was capped with a 1-yard push up the middle by junior quarterback Chris Scheffer (5-for-10, 52 yards) with 27.6 seconds remaining. Isaevski's PAT gave Glenn a 24-20 lead and, despite a 37-yard Novi drive to the Rockets' 39-yard line, that would be the final score as the game ended on an 8-yard sack of junior Josh Schiesler, who was taking his first snap of the season at quarterback.

Novi senior Blake Boron (2-for-4, 22 yards in the air, 23 yards on two runs) played the quarterback role in place of junior Issac Burgess, but the Wildcats stayed true to their running game, which amassed 343 of the team's 365 total yards.

“I think trying to avoid turnovers and trying to get a different changeup, he's a kid who started at corner for us. He's a natural leader,” Pennycuff said of Boron. “We thought, going in, he's a kid who might help us out a bit. His forte was to roll out and we wanted to have the option to get him on the edge.”

Glenn had 286 total yards and nine first downs, compared to 17 for Novi. Junior Devon Spalding had 104 yards on 24 runs for the Rockets.

In the defensive showdown against running backs, Glenn junior Jordan Brandon had a game-high 12 tackles. Senior Grant Wheeler led Novi with eight tackles, while five Wildcats had five tackles apiece, including seniors Deighton, Buck and Jionni Ivy, and juniors Travis Sparling and Mark Ryan.