Trailing 14-7 early in the third quarter, North Central fullback Chase VanSchoyck busted outside for a game-high 19-yard run. It seemed to be a sign the North Central running attack that was picking up steam in a battle of two top-10 Class A teams.
Even when the No. 7 Thunderbirds’ drive stalled, coach Travis Nolting’s defense stopped the high-powered spread offense of the No. 2 Falcons.
North Vermillion’s defense, which came into the game having not been scored upon, made the crucial plays against a North Central rushing attack averaging nearly 400 yards per game to come away with a 37-7 win.
The Falcons recovered a fumble inside the 10-yard line on North Central’s first play of inside the 10-yard line late in the third quarter, and Falcons’ quarterback Brayden Woodard tossed a 5-yard touchdown to Braeden Hollowell a couple snaps later.
“I really thought the defense came through again,” said coach Brian Crabtree of the 4-0 Falcons.
“The offense gets a lot of the spotlight, but defense has been the heart and soul of the program since I’ve been here. Our coaches do a great job of putting that together. Coach [Ben] Blank did a good job on the gameplan.”
That Woodard touchdown toss led to 23 unanswered points in the span of eight minutes.
Woodard finished with 133 yards rushing, and sophomore running back Jacob Earl busted loose for touchdown runs of 43 and 24 yards to cap the win.
“They defended us very well the first half, but we figured some things out in the second half and we just executed to our best,” Woodard said. “It’s an explosive offense, it’s up-tempo, and we have plenty of options. Earl adds a great dimension to our backfield this year. We’re a tough 1-2 punch.”
Earl’s big plays came after the Falcons’ defense continued to stop the Thunderbirds power running game.
Thunderbird quarterback Dillon Baliey was under pressure on third-and-long, going down on a sack inside his own two-yard line. North Vermillion blocked Bailey’s punt, and North Central recovered in its own end zone for a safety.
Bailey had 48 yards rushing in the first half as North Central outgained North Vermillion on the ground 105-99 through two quarters. Bailey finished with 38 yards, while VanSchoyck compiled 133.
Nolting hopes his team bounces back well
“We’ve got to play fundamental football,” Nolting said. “For three quarters, this was a heck of a game. We’ve got to block and tackle and play assignment football. We had some miscues that hurt us and they capitalized on us. You can’t have those mistakes against a team as good as North Vermillion.”
The Falcons and Thunderbirds could meet again in the postseason.
“They’re going to have to turn the page. They realize they let this one get away. We have every intention of playing them again for a sectional title.”