The preseason coaches’ poll picked Livonia Stevenson to finish first in the Kensington Lakes Central Division, just ahead of Northville. Friday night they settled the matter on the field.
The Mustangs came from behind by scoring 24 unanswered points to defeat host Stevenson, 24-14, and take the lead in the conference with three games remaining — three very big games.
“We have to go out and take care of business next week,” said Northville coach Matt Ladach in acknowledging the poll. “If we go out and lay an egg against our rival it’s going to be a big disappointment.”
Both teams entered the night undefeated and one win away from clinching a playoff spot with a sixth win. Northville is 6-0 overall, 4-0 in the KLAA. Stevenson is now 5-1, 3-1.
Stevenson got off to a blazing start by scoring on the third play of the game, a 34-yard run by Austin Petrie, followed on the next series by a 17-yard scoring run by Frank Carlin for a 14-0 lead just halfway through the first quarter.
Northville then got both its defense, and its offense going, to lead 17-14 at halftime, while shutting out the Spartans the remainder of the game.
Jake Moody crushed a 50-yard field goal, with yardage to spare, for the Mustangs’ first score, coming on the first play of the second quarter. Both Moody and Ladach agreed it was the game’s turning point.
“One of the kids came up to me and said, ‘coach, Moody’s making them from 60’ (yards, in practice), so when we had the wind at our backs and it was 50 yards there was no decision there,” Ladach said.
“I feel like it was a turning point,” Moody said. “Everybody was all down when it was 14-0, and then I made that 50 and everyone was happy from then on.”
The Mustangs drove to Stevenson’s 15-yard line the next series but were stopped on 4th-and-inches. Still, Northville scored twice before the half — a Justin Zimbo run from four yards out, and an 8-yard run by Zach Prystash with 24 seconds left on the clock. The touchdown was set up by a 44-yard pass from Zimbo to Terrell Cunningham. Zimbo (28 carries, 158 yards) scored on a 13-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter for the final margin.
“We need our kids to be disciplined at all times on the football field, to do the right thing on the field and they did that tonight,” Ladach said. “Very proud of the defense. We didn’t have to change a whole lot (after sacrificing two touchdowns), just executing our assignments and tackling the football.”