Chaz Reeder (52) of North Union chases down Genoa Area quarterback Braylen Bryant on this play. Reeder tallied three tackles during the 35-7 win.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
North Union’s football team has done something never done in school history… win a second round playoff game.
The No. 8 Wildcats handled ninth-seeded Genoa Area, 35-7, on Saturday to keep their playoff hopes going and set the new mark.
NU head coach Nick Hajjar said he could feel the team’s desire to win before the opening kickoff.
“That is something the kids wanted and they were able to execute,” he said. “They marked their names in school history and hopefully, it is not the end.”
The Wildcats knew the game was going to be won on the ground.
Both teams ran a similar Wing T offense and the game was going to come down to the finer points to claim the victory.
“There was a lot of familiarity the systems, but I think our ability to go out and throw it more was the difference,” Hajjar said. “It got us out of some third down situations and kept them off-balance.”
It was the Wildcats’ defense that kept the Comets off their game.
After an early fumble from the Cats the NU defense got the ball back in a hurry after forcing Genoa to punt.
At that point, it was off to the races for North Union.
The Cats utilized their running backs to work down field, with the final push coming from 13-yard run by Trevor Moran.
Ricky Weigand pushed the ball through the uprights for a 7-0 lead.
Genoa was able to work the ball to midfield, but NU’s defense came through again by forcing a fumble on third down.
The Comets recovered, but had to punt.
Hajjar said his defense stuck to the game plan.
“We made a conscious effort to get them off schedule on first down and to get them into situations they didn’t want,” he said. “Execution is the key in playoff football.”
The Cats held their 7-0 lead through the first quarter.
NU incorporated the pass during its next scoring drive.
Preston Crabtree linked up with Owen Davis on the sideline.
Davis broke free of a tackle to take the ball to the Comets’ eight-yard line.
Moran the drive on a run around the end for his second TD.
Weigand added the PAT to give NU a 14-0 lead.
The Comets answered by putting together a 10-play drive the Wildcats couldn’t stop.
Genoa running back Ray Gomez plunged into the end zone from 10 yards out to pick up the Comets’ only TD.
Nate Partin’s PAT cut the score to 14-7 with 1:26 left in the half.
North Union, pushing to pick up points before the half, switched to a hurry-up offense.
Crabtree found his open receivers to march the ball to the Comets’ 24.
He hit Trevyn Feasel at the seven-yard line to set up Weigand for a field goal attempt.
Weigand sailed the ball down the middle to give NU a 17-7 lead with only two seconds left in the half.
Hajjar said the field goal was a great lift for his team going into the break.
“One of the biggest plays in the game was that field goal, simply because of momentum,” he said. “I think that helped us moving into the second half.”
The second half was all about the Wildcats.
The Comets came out with the ball in hand, but a Feasel interception at midfield ended the series.
Hajjar said his defense was a real key to NU’s offensive success.
“There is a lot of unselfishness going out there,” he asaid. “There are no egos right now. They understand the game plan and are buying into it.”
North Union capitalized on the miscue with an eight-play, 51-yard drive that ended with Moran scoring from four yards away from the end zone.
The Cats went for two points, but failed, leaving the score at 23-7.
Moran made one more trip to the end zone in the third quarter on a 10-yard run, pushing the score to 29-7.
NU’s defense continued to play strong in the fourth quarter.
Feasel picked off his second pass deep in Comet country.
Three plays later, Feasel finished the Wildcats’ offensive with series drive with a three-yard run up the middle.
Weigand kicked a successful PAT to give NU its final margin of victory.
North Union will return to post-season action at No. 1 seed Findlay Liberty Benton, 7 p.m., Saturday.