North Union’s Tim Gilliland, left, tries to sack Marion Harding quarterback Noah Thompson during the fourth quarter Friday at Harding. The Wildcats suffered their first road loss of the season, 31-28.
The North Union Wildcats has been a team that has found success on the road this year, winning three games on the road prior to this week’s ball game.
Unfortunately the road magic ran out as the Cats slipped below .500 after suffering their first road loss of season, 31-28, at Marion Harding on Friday.
The Presidents brought a 4-2 record to the game after beating the likes of Mount Vernon, Newark, Ontario and Galion.
After only three minutes into the ball game, it looked like they were going to make it win number five.
The Prexies scored on their opening play from scrimmage when quarterback Noah Thompson linked up with Drake Facione for a short pass that ended up a 77-yard touchdown pass.
Savion Tyler added the point after to make it a quick 7-0 lead.
North Union tried to get out the gates early, but came up short when they booted the ball after three quick plays.
The Presidents added another quick six when they returned the punt 90 yards for a TD. Tyler sailed the ball through the uprights and within the first three minutes of the ball game, Harding had a 14-0 advantage.
North Union decided to get serious with the football and started its run-heavy offense down the field. The Cats found themselves at the Marion Harding one-yard line when Carson Smith put the first points on the board for the Cats. Drake Price struggled with the kick and Harding held a 14-6 margin.
Harding kept its foot on the gas, relying on the efforts of Julian Ladd to march down the field.
Once the Prexies got down deep in North Union territory, they mixed up the effort and went to the air. Thompson threw a strike to Devon Fraker from 11 yards out to give Harding its third touchdown of the night. Tyler added the PAT to make it 21-6.
With time ticking away, the Wildcats found some seams in the Harding defense as they worked their way down the gridiron.
Garrett Miller got the call to take the ball to the promise land. He was able to oblige the North Union faithful with a four-yard run for six points. Price found his footing to add a point and reel in the Prexies at 21-13.
“We had a good balance of running and throwing the ball,” said NU coach Nick Hajjar. “We just had to take what they gave us and at times we were able to do that.”
Harding’s offense fell flat in the second quarter as the NU defense made some timely stops.
The Wildcats took advantage of Harding’s down turn as they worked the ball down the field as the halftime whistle grew near.
The Cats found themselves inside the five-yard line and after a few failed running attempts, Anthony Padovano threw the ball high and to the deep corner for the outstretched arms of Harley Day to add another TD.
Hajjar opted to go for the two-point conversation to tie the ball game. A quick move to the outside by Smith gave the Cats the points they needed to tie the game with 25 seconds left in the half.
“We battled back and that is what I told the kids,” said Hajjar. “We fought and gave ourselves a chance at the end.
“At the end of the game there are certain moments that are key, but tonight we didn’t capitalize on enough of those.”
The Wildcats gave themselves good field position at the start of the second half when Kyle Willis returned the Harding kickoff to midfield.
The good fortune didn’t last long as Padovano made his only throwing mistake of the game when he under threw his receiver into the arms of the Harding secondary.
Harding was able to drive with the ball, but several rushing attempts ended in no gains.
That led to Tyler coming on to kick a 23-yard field and give Marion Harding a small 24-21 lead.
North Union didn’t have an answer for the Harding field goal and left the field after four short plays.
Harding had more success with the ball, capping a 16-play, 70-yard drive with a six-yard quarterback keeper up the middle for a touchdown. Tyler added a point to give the Prexies a 10-point lead with six seconds left in the third quarter.
NU didn’t waste time with ball after receiving the kickoff from Harding. The Cats employed their run- heavy offense and made some headway with Miller’s help.
In an effort to throw Harding off the scent, the Cats streaked Smith down the sideline. Padovano found him with a deep pass over the top for a 30-yard touchdown. Price added the point after and with nearly eight minutes left in the ball game, the Cats where back in striking distance at 31-28.
The unfortunate news is that the Cats could do no more with the ball as the Prexies wore down the clock for the win.
“We’ve got to look at the tape, but whenever you come up short you never think you have done enough and that you always can do more,” said Hajjar. “We just have to continue to learn from it (the loss).”
North Union slipped to 3-4 and will host Galion for their Homecoming game on Friday.
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