Northville shows might, scores late and defeats Plymouth 23-20 to remain unbeaten
Canton – Northville needed a stop and a score late to claim its second Kensington Lakes Athletic Association Lakes Conference championship in three years, 23-20, over Plymouth on Friday at Plymouth.
The Mustangs trailed, 20-16, with 2:45 to play, and the defense had Plymouth pinned inside the 10-yard line. Unable to gain a first down, Plymouth had to punt deep in their own end zone.
Senior Zach Prystash’s 23-yard punt return gave Northville (8-0) possession on Plymouth’s 25.
“We were the underdogs going into tonight, but we had composure on our sidelines. That’s why our defense stepped up, and that’s why we were able to come back and score,” senior quarterback Justin Zimbo said.
It took Northville four plays to score and retake the lead. Zimbo found Prystash for a 14-yard screen pass to the Plymouth 8-yard line. From there Northville coach Matt Ladach called Zimbo’s number.
“Each and every game this year has been a battle. The fight these kids have is incredible. I wanted to run the ball into the teeth of the defense on third and goal. That speaks volumes in the confidence that we have in Justin Zimbo,” Ladach said.
His senior signal caller didn’t disappoint. The 6-foot Zimbo fought his way forward as he dragged the pile over the goal line for a 23-20 lead with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter.
Scoring didn’t come easy in the first half as the game was tied at 7-7. Northville scored with nine seconds left in the half on a four-yard pass from Zimbo to junior Jack Peterson.
The Wildcats (6-2, 5-1 KLAA) took a 7-0 lead with 6:57 left in the first quarter on a 15-yard pass from junior Jonah Peterson to Victor Abraham.
Northville was able to keep the momentum to start the second half when Shane Rankin stripped and recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half.
“That was huge. We preach players to protect the football, and force turnovers. That’s how you win,” Ladach said. “We needed that turnover.”
Three plays later, Zimbo found sophomore Anthony Abbott on a fade pattern to the end zone for a 13-7 lead with 10:27 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats took little time to answer on the ensuing drive when Darius Timmons took a fly sweep 49-yards for a 13-13 tie a minute later. While the two-point conversion was no good, Plymouth quickly built its lead.
After junior Spencer Zwarka recovered a fumble that was forced by senior Michael Jordan, Peterson kept the ball on a zone read for a 45-yard touchdown for a 20-13 lead with 8:52 left in the third quarter.
Northville did receive a 22-yard field goal from sophomore Jake Moody to cut into Plymouth’s lead, 20-16, with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
Despite the Wildcats play, coach Mike Sawchuck said he failed his team during the week’s preparation.
“We didn’t want our kids to turn their game down this week, but this falls on the coaches. We didn’t coach them up enough this week,” Mike Sawchuck said after the game.
“We responded in the second half, sure. But, we can’t survive good teams when we turn over the ball and stall on drives. Good teams capitalize off mistakes. There is a reason why (Northville) is 8-0 and we’re 6-2.
“We didn’t coach them up enough. We have to make sure we get better and not get worse from the loss. There is no in between.”