NU defense stays strong down stretch against Northwestern

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Owen Davis (1) of North Union makes a cut to avoid a Northwestern defender during the Cats’ 14-12 win. NU now sits at the top of the CBC Mad River Division at 3-0. (Photo submitted)

Northwestern and North Union are no strangers to one another. Even though it is the Wildcats’ first year in the Central
Buckeye Conference, the two teams have scrimmaged each other for nearly 10 years, according to NU head coach Nick
Hajjar. The familiarity led to a dogfight on the field Friday night, but it was the Cats’ who won the battle down the stretch.
The Wildcats won the game, 14-12, after they squashed the Warriors’ two-point chance late in the fourth quarter.
Hajjar was pleased to see his players fight for four quarters.
“What a game,” he said. “We came into a hostile environment on the road and the defense just played lights out. I’m
really proud of the kids.”
The fight started on the opening drive for the Cats. North Union put its boots to the ground early and ground away at the
Warrior defense yard-for-yard.
The long, sustained drive ultimately led to the first points of the game when Trevor Moran bulled his way through the
middle of the line and into the end zone.
Ricky Wiegand added the very important point after to give the Cats a 7-0 lead after erasing more than eight minutes off
the clock.
Hajjar said the opening drive really set the tempo and tone for the Cats’ offense for the remainder of the game.
North Union’s time on defense short and to the point as it held Northwestern to a quick three-and-out.
The Cats, on the other hand, had plans for the ball.
North Union opened its second drive on their own 25-yard line.
Hajjar let his stallions in the backfield free as they worked their magic to get to midfield.
Preston Crabtree gave his backs a break by linking with Owen Davis on a 30-yard pass that pushed North Union to the
two-yard line.
Crabtree finished the push with a keeper up the middle to give North Union its second score.
Weigand sailed the ball through the uprights to push the Cats out a 14-0 lead with just over 11 minutes left in the half.
The Warriors put together their first sustained push of the half by working the ball inside the Wildcats’ red zone.
However, an interception in the back of the end zone by Isaiah Radcliff ended Northwestern’s drive.
The Warriors answered with an interception of their own, but the Wildcat defense was able to keep the Warriors off the
board in the first half by forcing a late punt.
“We had one element in mind to keep their offense off the field,” Hajjar said. “The fewer touches we can give them, the
better it works out for us.”
North Union took its 14-0 lead into the locker room, thanks in large part to some solid defense in the first half.
The Wildcats came out of the intermission with defense still on the brain.
The Warrior started with the ball at midfield and once again pressed into the red zone.
Northwestern’s quarterback dropped back to pass from 16 yards out and threw to the waiting arms of Wildcat Ethan
Mouser in the end zone to end the series.
The Cats could not take advantage of the opportunity and struggled to get any solid offense rolling in the second half.
Hajjar said penalties hurt the Cats’ ability to stay on schedule.
The Warriors broke through NU’s defense midway through the fourth quarter when Ben VanNoord ran in for a nine-yard
TD.
Mason MacGillivary missed the PAT and that would come back to haunt the Warriors in the final seconds of the game.
The Warriors made a second trip to the end zone with 48 seconds remaining in the game when back-up quarter Dawson
Thomas found VanNoord in the end zone from 15 yards out.
The Warriors needed two point to push the game into overtime, so the offense stayed on the field.
Thomas dropped the ball on the ground during the hand-off exchange with VanNoord on the attempt and a pile of
Wildcats landed on it to deny Northwestern.
Hajjar said his team just needed to go out and make a play.
“They just had to suck it up and stop one play and they found a way to do it,” he said.
The Warriors attempted an onside kick, but the Wildcats pounced on the ball at the 50.
NU took a knee in the victory formation to win its fifth game of the year and move to the top of the Central Buckeye
Conference’s Mad River Division at 3-0.
Hajjar said the rest of the season will be a battle, but they control their own destiny in the league.
North Union will test its destiny against Urbana at home on Friday.



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