North Union’s Owen Davis picks up steam on this play Friday evening. The Wildcats improved to 4-0 with a 35-0 win over Kenton Ridge. (Photo submitted)
North Union head football coach Nick Hajjar had a pretty clear message to his team following its 35-0 win at home over Kenton Ridge.
In fact, he said it twice on Friday.
“The bigger the challenge, the stronger the brotherhood,” he said and then repeated to the Wildcats in their post-game huddle.
What were the challenges?
Already down one running back, Ethan Young, before the game even started, North Union had several players miss portions of the contest because of injury, mostly leg cramps.
Young is nursing an injury that kept him out against Kenton Ridge.
“We had the next up mentality,” Hajjar said of dealing with the injuries. “We had a number of guys step up.”
Another challenge came in the form of the opponent.
Kenton Ridge (2-2) went into the game averaging nearly 500 yards and nearly 40 points per contest.
“They are super physical and we knew going in it would be a four-quarter game,” Hajjar said. “Everybody had to pick it up.”
The Wildcats also committed several penalties, which limited some of their momentum.
But in the end, it made little difference for North Union as its offense and defense teamed together to win a fourth straight game.
It also was the Wildcats’ first cross-over victory over a Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division team.
North Union is in the CBC’s Mad River Division.
It was North Union’s third shutout of the season.
“We stayed the course to bring it together,” Hajjar said of the overall effort. “The defense made a couple of big stops for us.”
The adversity began with the opening kickoff.
Kenton Ridge surprised everyone with an onside kick and recovered the ball on the North Union 47.
A 10-yard run by Lane Roberts and an NU personal foul penalty helped the Cougars get inside the North Union 20.
The Cats’ defense, however, stiffened to take over on downs on their own 15.
It took just two plays for North Union to get the first score of the evening.
After his two-yard run to start the series, Owen Davis went around left end and bolted untouched for an 83-yard touchdown.
Ricky Weigand kicked the extra point to make it 7-0 at the 7:39 mark of the first quarter.
North Union added another score late in the stanza, once again with a sweep to the left side of the offense.
This time it was Lincoln Harrah who sprinted past the Kenton Ridge defense on a 43-yard scamper. Weigand made it 14-0 with the PAT.
Neither team scored in the second quarter.
The Wildcats halted one Kenton Ridge drive with a fumble recovery at the NU 18.
The Cougars opened the second half with the ball.
NU, though, only allowed one first down and forced a punt.
The punt was shanked, going just eight yards past the line of scrimmage.
That gave North Union the ball on the Kenton Ridge 41.
Sticking with a ground attack that has been their calling card this season, the Wildcats used seven plays to notch their third score.
Harrah totaled 21 yards on three carries and Davis toted the ball four times for 37 yards.
He capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown smash.
Weigand was once again perfect on the PAT to up the lead to 21-0 with 5:28 left in the third quarter.
Kenton Ridge came back with an eight-play drive, but stalled out at the North Union 40.
NU’s defense got into the scoring act in the fourth quarter, scoring twice in the span of about 90 seconds to put the game away.
Davis got the first defensive touchdown with an 84-yard fumble recovery with just under four minutes left.
Two plays later, Trey Bosaller had a scoop-and-score from 34 yards out.
“It was a total team effort,” Hajjar said. “Everybody had to pick it up. When a player’s number got called, he made the most of it.”
Davis finished with 204 yards rushing on 19 carries, while Harrah added 71 on five attempts.
Cayden Lassiter completed two-of four passes for 14 yards with Brody Wilson and Bosaller each getting one catch.
Lane Roberts rushed 116 yards for Kenton Ridge, but North Union held the Cougars well below their season average, giving up just 204 yards in total offense.
North Union will play another Kenton Trail Division opponent next Friday as it travels to Jonathan Alder.