The Wildcats of North Union have been playing in the shadows for the last three weeks with three consecutive losses.
Before Friday night’s home game against Indian Lake, head coach Nick Hajjar said it was a chance to wipe the slate clean as North Union opened Central Buckeye Conference divisional play.
North Union was able to step into the light against the defending Mad River Division champs Indian Lake with a 35-14 win.
Hajjar said the feeling of winning after struggling for so long feels great.
“It is all about the kids,” he said. “They really grew this week and handled adversity well to come away with a win.”
North Union set the tempo fast and early as Trevor Moran ran the ball up the middle for a 63-yard touchdown on NU’s opening play. Ricky Weigand put the ball through the uprights on the point after attempt to give NU a 7-0 lead with only 19 seconds off the clock.
The two sides exchanged defensive blows, keeping the score locked at 7-0 through the first quarter.
Hajjar said the stiff challenge was something he expected going into the contest.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” he said “It was our first game ever against Indian Lake and they came to our place as the defending league champions. It was a grind,”
That grind finally paid off for the Lakers midway through the second quarter when quarterback Clay Jacobs found Austin Parker over the middle from four yards out to pick up their first TD.
Derek Cline added the PAT for the Lakers to make it a 7-7 contest.
Indian Lake’s defense held the Cats to a quick three-and-out.
Once the ball was in their hands, the Lakers didn’t take long to add another six points.
Jacobs found Parker again over the middle for a 71-yard scoring reception.
Cline added the PAT to give Indian Lake a 14-7 lead with 4:18 left in the half.
With time running short, North Union looked to its gunslinger, quarterback Preston Crabtree, to move the ball.
He completed seven-of-nine passes on a 62-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard pass to Harley Day in the corner of the end zone.
Weigand sailed the ball through the uprights to tie the game at 14-14 with only 1:18 left in the opening half.
Hajjar said he saw his players performing at a level he hasn’t seen in the last several weeks.
That was evident on the play that helped NU take the stalemate into the locker room at the half.
“There were a couple of things I saw tonight that hasn’t really shown itself lately,” Hajjar said. “The ability to get the game to 14-14 was huge for us and then they came out and continued to battle.”
With it still anybody’s game to open the second half, Indian Lake received the kick.
The Lakers, though, didn’t have it for long.
On third-and-four, NU’s defensive line pressured the backfield.
Jacobs threw the ball to the waiting arms of Jaxson Harrah to give North Union the ball deep in Laker country.
The Wildcats worked the ball downfield on 10 plays to take the lead after Moran ran the ball in from eight yards out.
Weigand stayed perfect on his extra points to give NU a 21-14 margin.
The Wildcats continued to pour on the points during the fourth quarter.
Moran made his third trip to the end zone from 41 yards out to give NU a solid 28-14 lead with only 5:27 remaining in the game.
Crabtree came up with an interception that gave NU the ball at Indian Lake’s 15.
Trevyn Feasel shut the door on the Lakers with a 15-yard scamper down the sideline to give NU its fifth TD of the night.
Weigand booted its fifth PAT to give NU the decisive victory.
Hajjar said it was great to see his team play a four-quarter contest.
“I knew we were going to have to play four solid quarters of football and I challenged them to leave it all out on the field,” he said. “We have been fighting a lot of pain these last three weeks and I’m just really proud of them.”
The Wildcats increased their record to 3-3 for the season and 1-0 in CBC play.
North Union will host St. Paris Graham for Homecoming on Friday.
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