Jordan Lauf makes a catch against Perrysburg's Steve Slocum. Lauf, who will play basketball at UT, has made a school-record 11 touchdown catches this season.
The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
NAPOLEON -- During a season of memorable wins, the Napoleon football team is making history while chasing it.
Coming off a 5-6 year, expectations were modest as the Wildcats entered their second season competing in the Northern Lakes League. Napoleon had lost many key, skill players to graduation and were picked to finish fifth.
But an upset of five-time defending champion Southview (20-14) in week four has served as the catalyst for the undefeated Wildcats (7-0-1, 5-0 NLL).
With several dramatic wins under its belt, Napoleon has moved up to No. 3 in the Division III state poll. The Wildcats knocked off Perrysburg 35-34 in overtime last Friday to stand alone atop the NLL.
Napoleon coach Tory Strock, who is in his fifth season, said the NLL wins have been the biggest of his career. They include victories against Maumee (14-6) and Anthony Wayne (34-31 in double overtime).
"It has been a historical season and it has been really neat," said Strock, who has a record of 32-18-1. "It's been fun to do it with this group of kids because they are special.
"I think we caught some people off guard. I told the kids you will get respect when you earn it and you earn it by being consistent and taking care of business each week. Now we've gotten that respect. In our second year we're still the new kid on the block. It does make you feel good."
Napoleon has already clinched a playoff berth and can ensure at least a share of the NLL title with a win Friday against Northview.
Along the way senior running back Charlie Harris set the school record for rushing yards in a game with 302 in a season-opening 57-28 win against Defiance.
Senior wide receiver Jordan Lauf has set a school record for touchdown catches in a season with 11. Lauf, 6-foot-5, who will play basketball at the University of Toledo, had played soccer the last two falls.
"I figured I could contribute to the team," Lauf said. "I was hoping I could have an impact like this and for me to be in this spot is pretty special."
Lauf leads the team with 20 catches for 495 yards (24.8 yards per reception).
"Coming in we were still new to the league and we wanted to prove them wrong," he said. "We want to make a big run and we want to put Napoleon on the map."
Senior quarterback David Yunker has completed 54 percent of his passes (49 of 90) for 805 yards. In his first year as a signal caller, Yunker has tossed eight touchdowns.
"Coming in we felt we had something to prove," Yunker said. "We made a statement and made some teams respect us more. The senior leaders won't let us slip up now. We've done too much in the regular season. Now there are big expectations."
In the long history of strong Napoleon football teams, no Wildcat team has ever won more than 10 games in a season, and no team has won a second-round playoff game.
In 10 playoff appearances Napoleon is 4-10. The Wildcats have qualified twice under Strock, including last season when they were bounced 27-7 by Clyde in the first round.
The Wildcats remain undefeated after their game in week three against Kettering Alter, the No. 2-ranked team in D-III, was ruled a 0-0 tie after bad weather forced a cancellation. The Wildcats have outscored their opponents 259-126.
Harris, who missed two games due to a disciplinary issue, still leads the team with 608 rushing yards. Harris has scored 11 touchdowns and is averaging 12.2 yards per carry.
Senior running back Max Westhoven ranks second on the team with 386 rushing yards (5.63 yards per carry with six scores).
Junior fullback Bryant Schlade has 72 carries for 502 yards (7.0 average) and four TDs.
"We have a great running game, and that makes it easier for a quarterback," Yunker said. "We have a lot of weapons. Jordan makes things look easy. Sometimes I can't believe the catches he makes."
Senior wideout Nick George has caught 13 passes for 154 yards with three touchdown receptions.
Defensively, the Wildcats have intercepted 11 passes and forced four fumbles. Harris has a team-high four interceptions. Yunker has two picks.
Westhoven, a linebacker, leads the team with 50 tackles. Senior linebacker Adante Warren has 43 tackles, including a team-high three sacks. Junior linebacker Anson Lankenau has 42 tackles.
Strock said many newcomers have emerged as contributors. None has been bigger -- literally -- than Lauf. The 191-pounder presents serious matchup problems.
Lauf said UT basketball coach Tod Kowalczyk did not hesitate to give him the green light to play football.
"It's a high-risk, high-reward thing," Lauf said. "So far I'm injury free and I hope it continues. Coach Kowalczyk said he thought it was a great idea. He wanted me to enjoy my senior year.
"My friends were in my ear. In July I talked it over with my family and I told coach I wanted to be part of his family. Everything has fallen in to place."
In the win over Perrysburg -- which Napoleon sealed when Schlade knocked down a pass on a two-point attempt in OT -- Lauf combined with Harris on a pivotal hook and ladder play.
"There is no question we would not be where we are at without him," Strock said. "He's like Calvin Johnson. He has a quiet confidence and they know he is a winner. They count on him in crunch time. He always delivers."
Strock hopes this team delivers the school's first undefeated regular season since 1976.
Lauf said the Wildcats know they've gone from the hunters to the hunted.
"Our mentality is to respect all opponents. But we fear no one," Lauf said. "We will continue that into the playoffs."
Strock said the main source of the offense's success is its ability to spread the ball around. He said the defense, which made late goal-line stands against AW, Perrysburg and Maumee, has a bend-but-don't-break mentality.
"This has been a season of memorable wins," Strock said.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.