Hartland football steals momentum from Novi, secures second win

September 2, 2021
Colin Gay
Reprinted with permission of the Novi News

Novi’s offense thought it had something brewing.
Trailing 12-0 late in the fourth quarter, junior quarterback Luke Aurilia took the ball at his own 13-yard line, immediately throwing a pass that led to a Hartland pass interference call, giving the Wildcats some room to work with.
After a dropped pass in the middle of the field by senior Bacari Scott, Aurilia didn’t slow down. The next snap, he saw a wide-open receiver in senior Tyler Patrick in the bubble, taking it 72 yards for their first score of the game. 
Momentum had not been on Novi’s side up to that point. Trailing by five with four minutes left, the Wildcats had hope. 
Sam Clay squashed that hope immediately.
The Hartland wide receiver and defensive back took the kickoff to the house for a touchdown, securing the Eagles’ 19-7 win against Novi on Thursday night. 
"When we gave it up there, we had some momentum and the kids were starting to believe a little bit. And so was I," Novi coach Jim Sparks said. "I had a good feeling there. … They didn’t quit, but it was a tougher sell." 
One catch favors Hartland 
For the majority of the first half, Hartland and Novi held each other to a defensive stalemate. 
But Hartland senior quarterback Brad Sollom had to try something.
Facing a second-and-10 from the Novi 27-yard line, the Eagles' quarterback threw up a ball to the end zone, trying to capitalize on a one-on-one. Sparks said Scott, the defensive back, did everything he could: getting inside leverage and getting both his hands on the ball. But as he tumbled to the ground with Hartland receiver Alex Yon, the referees conferred, saying Scott lost possession and gave the first touchdown of the game to Hartland. 
"It was huge," Hartland coach Brian Savage said. "It was like a defensive juggernaut out here. Nobody could do anything. That was obviously giving us a little momentum and didn’t spark us tremendously, but it gave us enough of a spark to get things going and finally figure it out in the second half." 
The Novi defense remained stout in the final 24 minutes, allowing 124 yards of offense and forcing a fumble on the Eagles’ second drive of the third quarter — following up two first-half interceptions by Cam Bloom and Blake Ellison. 
"The first half, they couldn’t move the ball on us at all," Sparks said. "They have a very good quarterback. I think we held him under check for the most part. We defended the deep balls. They hit a couple underneath, had a couple PIs, but overall, every aspect of our defense played very well." 
But Hartland still found a way, using two field goals — a 51-yard bomb and a 42-yarder by senior and LSU commit Nathan Dibert — and the kickoff return touchdown to keep Novi at arm’s length. 
Novi’s offense goes dark
Novi’s first offensive play from scrimmage didn’t set the tone it was looking for. Aurilia took the snap, fumbling with possession and falling on it for a 12-yard loss. 
From that point forward, a Wildcat offense that scored 28 points in its season opener against Wayne Memorial had a reality check. 
Novi recorded 213 yards of offense — 72 of which came from the bubble-screen score from Aurilia to Patrick in the fourth quarter — turning the ball with three interceptions by Clay, senior linebacker Aiden Martino and senior defensive back Isaiah McPherson, along with four turnovers on downs. 
"We got kids that make plays," Savage said. "Sam Clay made I don’t know how many plays out there. Aiden Martino had a pick on a key third-and-long. Our defensive line just swarmed the ball and they just played as a unit and did a great job." 
As time ticked down, Sparks saw that hope in his offense. He saw what it did against Wayne Memorial in the season opener: watching his junior quarterback find a way to set up a veteran receiver for a big play. 
But he knows his defense is ahead of the offense. He knows that Novi was facing a defense that didn’t allow a single point to a Livonia Franklin team that had a lot of experience coming back on its offense.
Sparks doesn’t know specifics, but he knows Novi has work to do to get back to the feeling the Wildcats were introduced to a week ago. 
“We won a game last week. You get that feeling and you learn to love winning,” Sparks said. “The kids never quit. It sounds very cliche, but they played hard.”
Novi will look for its second win of the season on the road at Salem, while Hartland takes its undefeated record on the road against Livingston County rival Brighton.