Northview struggled at times to move the ball against visiting Bowling Green on Friday night, but relied on its defense until getting a late touchdown to take a 22-15 Northern Lakes League football victory to stay unbeaten.
The Wildcats (7-0, 4-0 NLL) were clinging to a 16-15 lead until Joey Okeke scored his second touchdown of the game, this one on a 10-yard run with 1:52 remaining.
Northview, which failed on a two-point conversion try attempting to seal the game, then had to hold off a late drive by the Bobcats.
BG (3-4, 1-3) moved to the Wildcats’ 27-yard line but stalled there, and quarterback Spencer Rader threw incomplete on 4th-and-4 with 51 seconds to go.
IN PICTURES: Northview 22, Bowling Green 15
VIDEO: Northview-Bowling Green
Northview is off to its first 7-0 football start in school history.
“It’s a good feeling,” said fourth-year Northview coach Doug Downing, whose team was picked to finish sixth in the NLL’s preseason coaches’ poll. “We’re just trying to win and 1-0 each week, and that’s what we’re doing.
“We’ll enjoy this one tonight and get back after it. This senior class has been phenomenal. I’ve had them for four years now, and have seen them all the way through the program. They’ve changed the culture and changed the whole program.”
The win sets up a showdown for first place in the NLL next Friday for Northview on the road at Anthony Wayne (6-1, 4-0).
Okeke rushed 11 times in the game for 96 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
“My teammates really pushed the ball, and the offensive line did a really good job,” Okeke said of his late score. “I just saw the hole and I executed because they made a big hole for me.
“This [7-0 start] means a lot to us. To the school, to the community, it means a lot to everybody. We put in a lot of work to get this done.”
The only other second-half points came on a safety, when Northview snapped the ball out of the end zone in punt formation, helping pull BG within 16-15 with 8:04 to go.
“It wasn’t just the last play, it was the entire second half,” BG coach Dirk Conner said of his team’s failure to capitalize. “We couldn’t move to get it in [to end zone], and that’s what we needed to do.
“We even had some short fields to do it, so kudos to their defense and the things they did in attacking us. We’re very disappointed. We fully expected to win this game tonight and get to 4-3. It’s disappointing that we weren’t able to capitalize on the opportunities we had.”
In the first quarter, Bowling Green got the jump on Northview. The Bobcats’ Tucker Craft intercepted Brandon Leach’s first pass of the game and, four plays later, Brian Dible scored on a 9-yard run for 7-0 lead just 2:41 in.
Northview drove 52 yards on 10 plays, with Okeke capping things with his five-yard sweep around left end for the touchdown. The point-after attempt failed, and the Wildcats trailed 7-6 with 11:04 left in the first half.
BG gambled on a 4th-and-2 from its 46, and it paid off when Nick Jackson (11 carries, 109 yards) broke off a 52-yard run to set up Dible’s 2-yard touchdown plunge on the next play.
The Bobcats’ PAT try missed, and Northview stayed within 13-6 with 3:46 left in the half.
That was enough time for Northview to tie the game, then take the lead.
First, the 6-foot-7 Leach (9-of-23 passing, 164 yards, two interceptions) hit 6-4 tight end Colin McIntyre at midfield, and McIntyre broke a tackle on the way to a 68-yard score with 2:20 left before the break.
Bobcats quarterback Spencer Rader (3-of-8 passing, 18 yards) then lost his second fumble of the half at the Northview 27 with 53 seconds to go in the half. Luke Pawlak kicked 45-yard field goal three seconds before halftime.
Northview topped BG 339-231 in total offense. Jeffrey Blanks rushed 21 times for 83 yards.
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