Another quick start by Napoleon was just enough for the Wildcats to hold off a second-half charge Friday night by Maumee.
In a true tale of two halves, Napoleon hung on for a 14-6 road win over the Panthers. The Wildcats have never trailed this season and two long touchdown runs by senior back Max Westhoven staked them to an early 14-0 lead.
Napoleon coach Tory Strock said Westhoven's TD runs of 82 and 32 yards were huge.
"Tonight was the first time we didn't score on our opening drive," Strock said. "So that was a shock to the system. But our defense held and then bam, bam we put up 14 points which is huge against these guys. You won't blow teams like this out."
Napoleon (5-0-1) remained undefeated in the Northern Lakes League (3-0) in large part to a big first half. Maumee (3-3) fell to 1-2 despite dominating the second half. Only one total yard separated the teams as the Panthers finished with 277 yards to the Wildcats' 276.
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In the first half, Napoleon had 231 yards of total offense (186 rushing), while Maumee had just 92 yards. Westhoven rushed for 129 yards and two scores to give his team a 14-0 edge at the half.
"We haven't trailed this season and that's what we're used to," said Westhoven, who finished with a game-high 156 yards. "We got up and we bent, but we didn't break."
In the second half, Maumee tallied 185 yards and held Napoleon to just 45. Panther quarterback Steve Duby, who finished with 133 passing yards, scored on a one-yard run to make it 14-6 early in the third quarter.
Maumee senior running back Andrew Schultz rushed for 86 of his 128 yards in the second half.
The Panthers trailed by eight points with 3:58 left and took over at their own 32. They put together a 13-play drive down to the Napoleon 13. A 12-yard run by Schultz and a 22-yard pass from Duby to Sean McGovern were keys.
Maumee then had three cracks at a TD from the 13 but three incomplete passes ended it. Napoleon's Nick George broke up the final attempt on fourth down in the end zone to seal it.
"I faded back in the end zone, saw the ball, and put my hand up and made the play," George said. "It feels amazing. We knew this was the next step toward an NLL championship."
Trailing 14-0, Maumee marched 68 yards and then Duby recovered Schultz's fumble to score. But the kick failed and Napoleon held a 14-6 edge. Schultz had a 39-yard run on the drive.
Maumee later put together a 63-yard drive down to the Napoleon 7 but it stalled and McGovern missed a 24-yard field goal attempt.
"I'm proud of the way our kids played in the second half," Maumee coach John Boles said. "It's one of those games where you feel like you ran out of time. It's a hard one to take. But we waited a little too long to play as well as we can play. You don't want to wait."
After a Maumee punt early in the opening quarter Westhoven took a sweep to the left and out-sprinted the Maumee defense 82 yards down the sidelines for a score.
"Once I saw green I just took off with everything I had," Westhoven said.
The run failed on the two-point attempt but the Wildcats held an early 6-0 lead.
Westhoven then scored on a 32-yard run and capped it with a rush on the two-point conversion to make it 14-0 Napoleon with 11:37 left in the second quarter.
"You can't give up [big] runs in a game like this," Boles said. "You just can't. It's a killer. We just didn't get into the end zone. We just fell short."
Maumee had 17 first downs to Napoleon's seven.
Napoleon QB David Yunker was five of 10 for 53 yards, while Bryant Schlade had 54 rushing yards.
McGovern had a game-high five catches for 40 yards for Maumee.
Strock said the win reminded him of Napoleon's 20-14 triumph over Southview in Week 4 when the Wildcats also held on to an early cushion.
"When it comes down to crunch time … you saw the emotion of our kids. It was going to take Maumee doing something really special to stick one in on us," Strock said. "It's a meat grinder. After playing Maumee, they are for real. I don't know when the last time Maumee was held to six points. But it's about our kids and what they did to come out on top."
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.