A play here, a play there.
Change a handful of calls, maybe add a yard or two, and Northview’s season would look a lot different.
No surprise then that Friday’s District 1-1A title game played out much like the Chiefs season as host Northview lost to the visiting Baker Gators 35-21.
A couple of monster runs (including a 53-yard score in the third), and a few missed fourth-down opportunities proved to be the nail in the coffin for the Chiefs.
“They’re a physical team and their premise is running the football,” said Northview coach Sid Wheatley. “They’ve got a big offensive line and I knew coming in that’s what they wanted to do and that they were going to try and establish that. I thought we played well defensively, for the most part, but we gave up a couple of big runs – That’s huge for them.
“That was the difference in the game.”
Northview opened up the scoring midway through the first quarter, driving 52 yards on nine-plays to score on a short two-yard run from Toney Harrison.
The tide began to turn almost immediately afterward as the PAT dinged off the left upright. The Northview defense did its job on Baker’s ensuing possession, but the Chiefs surrendered the ball on their own drive after electing to go for it on fourth-and-half a yard from their own 22.
“I thought we could get it,” Wheatley said. “I thought we could get it. It was a bad spot (but) hindsight’s 20-20. You go back and look at it and we probably should have punted the football, but that was my call and I felt like our offense and our offensive line could get us that much.”
Baker used the excellent field position to score, rattling off 21 points in the second quarter with the team’s only blemish coming on a late-safety when it was pinned deep at its own 2-yard line.
Despite trailing by 20 points in the third quarter, the Chiefs refused to roll over as they cut the lead to 35-21 in the fourth.
With 3:40 to play in regulation, Northview quarterback Gavin Grant marched the offense down to the Baker 8-yard line. Grant tossed lobs to both corners, targeting juniors Luke Ward and Harrison, but lock-down defense won the day for the Gators after taking over on fourth down with 2:27 left to play.
“We’re down here deep, we’re down there deep (motions to both corners of the endzone),” Wheatley said. “A couple of passes right there, just inches away …. We thought we were going to be able to finish it and cut it to one score, but we couldn’t get it done.
“The way we were moving the ball through the air right there, I thought we’d be able to get a quick score. We had a couple of guys right there, especially Luke Ward there in the corner of the endzone if we could get the ball down but, you know, sometimes you hit those passes and sometimes you don’t. But, we had a great chance to make that play.”
Now, the Chiefs enter a final bye week before putting their season on the line against District 2-1A champion Vernon on Nov. 13.
“We’ve got a little time,” Wheatley said. “We’ve got next week to kind of lick our wounds and really get ’em motivated, really get ’em going. It’s like I told them (after the game) ‘You want to dream big. You can’t win a state championship if you’re not in the playoffs.’
“And that’s the great thing, that’s the positive thing, is that we are in the playoffs.”