Sullivan’s offense pushed Northview all over Lucas Stadium field on Saturday. But when push came to shove, Northview’s defense came up with the big plays that preserved a 28-20 victory in the Western Indiana Conference Classic.
Northview’s Levi Riggle intercepted a Sullivan pass in the end zone with 48 seconds to play, lifting the Knights to 2-0 in conference play.
“Sullivan has a good offense. Those two receivers [Jake Kinnaman and Michael Hutchcraft] are big guys,” Northview coach Mark Raetz said.
Northview’s offense wasn’t too shabby. Quarterback Tucker Stewart completed 10 of 13 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns while running for one. Normally a running quarterback, Stewart completed his first nine passes of the day.
“The receivers got open and the line did their job. [Tyler] Rector made some incredible grabs. He took some away from the defense,” Stewart said.
Rector caught six passes for 135 yards, including touchdowns of 22 and 10 yards. Kelly Hawkins had just one catch, but the 7-yarder gave the Knights a 21-7 lead at halftime.
“It was a great experience [playing at Lucas Oil Stadium],” Stewart said.
Sullivan’s Mike Willis completed 15 of 28 passes, going to 6-foot-4 senior Michael Hutchcraft in the first half and 6-5 Jake Kinnaman in the second. Hutchcraft caught four passes for 89 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown strike. Kinnaman caught five passes for 124 yards.
“We need to improve in the red zone,” Sullivan coach Trent Jones said.
This game came down to three Sullivan turnovers and Northview’s ability to control the pace of the game and score.
Northview made two big plays and took advantage of Sullivan errors to build a 21-7 halftime lead in the opening game.
Sullivan won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff with apparent hopes of scoring the first touchdown of the day. That idea was smashed when Northview’s Thomas Hess forced the Golden Arrows to fumble and Justice Buchholz recovered for the Knights at the Sullivan 25-yard line.
Three plays later the Knights took the lead when Rector caught a 22-yard pass from Stewart.
Sullivan came right back with an 80-yard touchdown drive to tie the score. Willis found Hutchcraft for a 29-yard pickup and Brooks Weszely carried the ball for gains of 10 and 11 yards. Weszely scored from the 1-yard yard for a 7-7 tie.
The Knights responded with a 10-play touchdown drive of their own. With Stewart finding Rector for two 15-yard pass plays, the Knights reached the Golden Arrows’ 3-yard line. On a quarterback draw, Stewart spun his way into the end zone.
Sullivan drove to the Northview 2-yard line before the Knights’ defense dug into the turf. On four consecutive plays the Knights’ defense led by Buchholz, Kyle Evans, Hawkins, Jacob Hendrich and Derek Mills stopped the Golden Arrows for either no gain or a loss.
Taking possession on their own 4-yard line, the Knights marched 96 yards in 12 plays to take a 21-7 lead that turned the whole game around.
Stewart, who wasn’t running because of a tender ankle, completed passes of 11 and 38 yards to Rector and found tight end Daniel Kimball for a 19-yard gain to the Sullivan 7-yard line. Stewart went to the open receiver, Hawkins, for the 7-yard touchdown play.
The Knights got the football to open the second half, but the Golden Arrows caught them off guard with an on-side kick. Sullivan recovered the football and quickly got back into the game with touchdown.
Starting from the Knights’ 49-yard line, the Knights scored in eight plays. Willis went to Kinaman for an 11-yard gain and hooked up with Hutchcraft for a 13-yard touchdown strike. Northview’s Trent Nevins blocked Sullivan’s point-after kick, leaving the Knights with a 21-13 edge.
Northview responded to the Sullivan touchdown with its final score of the day. On third-and-24, because of a holding penalty, Stewart went to Rector, who leaped over the Sullivan defender to make a 39-yard catch for a first down. Five running plays later, Stewart went back to Rector for a 10-yard touchdown.
Sullivan cut the margin to 28-20 on the third play of the fourth quarter.
Kinnaman pulled in a Willis pass for 53 yards to the Northview 2-yard line. This time the Golden Arrows could not be stopped, as Willis found Cameron Marx for the TD.
With 3:03 to play, Sullivan got the ball at its own 43-yard line. Willis threw three straight passes, including a 39-yarder that Kinnaman pulled down with one hand.
From the Knights’ 4-yard line, Ben Girton and Nevins stopped Willis at the 2. On the next snap, Northview’s Hunter Gambill dropped Willis for a 7-yard loss.
With the game on the line, Willis fired a pass to a receiver cutting over the middle of the end zone. As shown on the replay board at Lucas Oil, the pass went through the intended receiver’s hands and Northview’s Riggle, playing zone defense, caught it.
“It was a tipped pass. I just caught it and ran. We [had] to stop them. We don’t want them to score,” Riggle said of the play.
Northview 28, Sullivan 20
Northview 14 7 7 0 — 28
Sullivan 7 0 6 7 — 20
Nv — Tyler Rector 22 pass from Tucker Stewart (Trey Boor kick), 10:50 1st
S — Brooks Weszely 1 run (Kynon Johnson kick), 6:58 1st
Nv — Stewart 3 run (Boor kick), 1:25 1st
Nv — Kelly Hawkins 7 pass from Stewart (Boor kick), 0:32 2nd
S — Michael Hutchcraft 13 pass from Michael Willis (kick blocked), 8:44 3rd
Nv — Rector 10 pass from Stewart (Boor kick), 3:44 3rd
S — Cameron Marx 2 pass from Willis (Johnson kick), 11:20 4th
First downs 11 16
Rushes-yards 32-104 33-94
Passing yards 189 248
Comp-Att-Int 10-13-0 15-28-1
Return yards 50 71
Punts-avg 3-23.7 1-31.0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties-yards 4-54 2-18
Rushing: Northview — Ben Girton 15-55, Jacob LIttle 6-18, Hawkins 5-17, Stewart 5-7, Daniel Kimball 1-7. Sullivan — Weszely 16-58, Willis 16-25, Magill 1-11.
Passing: Northview — Stewart 10-13-0, 189 yards. Sullivan — Willis 15-28-1, 248.
Receiving: Northview — Rector 6-135, Girton 2-28, Kimball 1-19, Hawkins 1-7. Sullivan — Jake Kinnaman 5-124, Hutchcraft 4-89, Magill 4-32, Marx 1-2, Weszely 1-1.
Next — Northview (3-1, 2-0 Western Indiana Conference) will host Owen Valley and Sullivan (2-2, 0-1) will host Edgewood on Friday.