by Scott DCamp
After relying on its offense to outscore opponents for most of the previous eight weeks, the Northland football team called on its defense to do the heavy lifting during a 17-10 win over North Dakota State College of Science in a MCAC first round playoff game Sunday.
The Pioneer defensive unit came up with a pair of late stops to maintain a slim 17-10 fourth quarter lead. The first came when Northland defensive back Jerry Cantave intercepted a pass from NDSCS quarterback Malik Gaillard at the one-yard line with 1:21 left in the game.
After a Northland three and out and a bad punt by the normally sure-footed Dontae Ensley, who was punting out of his own end zone, the Wildcats took over at the Northland 12-yard line with under a minute left on the clock.
Gaillard completed a first down pass to Blake Conroy to get to the Northland seven-yard line. The Wildcats, clocked the ball on second down and Gaillard scrambled out of bounds at the four-yard-line on third down to set up a fourth and two with the game on the line.
NDSCS took too long in the huddle and a delay of game penalty moved the Wildcats back to the nine for the potential game-deciding play. On fourth down, Gaillard’s pass fell incomplete to give the Pioneers the ball back with 21 seconds left.
“This is the most players we’ve had back on defense since week two at Fond du Lac,” said Head Coach Jim Cox. “We lost five plyers at Fond du Lac. Last time we played NDSCS, we had four new starters in the secondary. When the weather gets cold, its nice to have your defense get healthy. ”
Early on, it appeared that the Pioneers and Wildcats were destined for another offensive shootout. When the teams met Oct. 14, offense ruled the day as the Pioneers pulled away late for a 42-30 victory.
On Sunday, penalties took three touchdowns off the board – two for Northland and one for NDCSC – plus a howling wind from the northwest limited both teams passing attacks.
“Wind was a little more difficult. What really hurt was playing a team twice in three weeks. It makes it more advantageous for defense.
Northland moved the ball 65 yards on eight plays on its first possession of the game, with quarterback Shannon Patrick connecting with Dakari Highsmith for a five-yard touchdown reception to conclude the drive.
NDSCS got on the board two possessions later, with Gregory Slade booting a 24-yard field goal following a 13-play, 55-yard drive.
Northland’s second score was set up by mishandled NDSCS punt. Slade mishandled the snap and was tackled at his own 11-yard line. Northland took advantage of the short, with Deion Hogan scoring on a 30-yard run with two minutes remaining in the first half.
NDSCS cut the Northland lead to four on its second possession of the second half. Gaillard scored on an 18-yard run to cap a 54-yard scoring drive.
Northland went back up by seven when Dontae Ensley booted a 42-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. The short drive was set up by an interception by linebacker Kendall Sylvester.
Northland appeared to be on its way to icing the game when it put together a seven-play, 53-yard drive that ended with Joe Cash fumble at the one-yard line that rolled into the endzone and was covered by NDSCS for a touchback.
NDSCS put together an eight play drive that ended with Rogstad’s interception.
1 2 3 4 T
NDSCS 3 0 7 0 10
Northland 7 7 0 3 17
NCTC – Dakari Highsmith 5-yard pass from Shannon Patrick, Dontae Ensley kick.
NDSCS – Gregory Slade 24-yard field goal.
NCTC – Deion Hogan 11-yard run, Ensley kick.
NDSCS – Malik Gaillard 18-yard run, Ensley kick.
NCTC – Ensley 37-yard field goal.
• First downs – NCTC 17; NDSCS 18.
• Fumbles (total-lost) – NCTC 1-1; NDSCS 0-0.
• Penalties (number-yards) – NCTC 13-119; NDSCS 8-96.
• Punts (number-average) – NCTC 7-25; NDSCS 7-30.
• Rushing (attempts-yards) – NCTC 22-51; NDSCS 29-75.
• Passing – NCTC 23-for-34, 188 yards, 1 interception; NDSCS 4-for-14, 27 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception; NDSCS 16-for-37, 2 interceptions.
• Total yards – NCTC 239; NDSCS 222.
• Rushing – (NCTC) Deion Hogan 6-65, touchdown; (NDSCS) Kingston Myles 12-68.
• Passing – (NCTC) Shannon Patrick 23-for-34, 188 yards, touchdown, interception; (NDSCS) Malik Gaillard 16-for-37, 147 yards, 2 interceptions.
• Receiving – (NCTC) Malik Williams 9-91; Will Bartels 5-51; Dakari Highsmith 6-23; (NDSCS) Kinston Myles 4-57; Josiah Ferguson 2-32; Damari Wilson 2-21.
• Defense – (NCTC) Jerry Cantave interception, 2 tackles; Kendall Sylvester interception, 2 tackles; Justin Scott 6 tackles; Marquavious McCatty 5 tackles.