NOVI, Mich. - This week, it’s personal for the Northville and the Novi football teams.
There may not be a league championship on the line, and a playoff berth may be unlikely. But there’s pride.
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“The one thing we harp on is playing for one another,” Northville coach Matt Ladach said. “Playing for each other and playing for the block ‘N’ on our helmets.”
Ladach’s Mustangs play at Novi on Friday in a Kensington Lakes Association crossover game.
Northville enters with a 3-4 record, but three of the losses came by eight points or less. Two of the setbacks were a 35-34 decision against Plymouth in Week 5 and a 19-16 loss to Livonia Churchill in Week 3.
“Our record isn’t indicative of our overall team,” Ladach said. “You look at the record and think we’re struggling. But our kids have played really, really hard. I’m not disappointed with our kids, I’m just disappointed with the outcomes.”
Despite the tough results, Northville has had several standout performances, starting with kicker Jake Moody.
A senior, Moody has scholarship offers from Army, Air Force, Bowling Green, and Central Michigan. He has booted three field goals of 50-plus yards this season, including a 58-yarder against Grand Blanc. It tied for the second-longest in state history.
“He’s extremely talented,” Ladach said. “He has the strongest leg I’ve ever coached.”
Linemen Jordan Grewe and Chase Cosey lead an offense that has scored 30 or more points in its last three games.
Jonathan Michalak and Christian Williams split time at quarterback and wide receiver, and they provide the Wildcats with versatility.
“They have a good pair of quarterbacks,” Novi coach Jeff Burnside said. “Both can run and both can pass.”
Tailback Abe Khoury shoulders the ground game, and he also starts at cornerback.
Inside linebacker Max Cooper anchors the defense, which shut down Wayne Memorial in the second half of Northville’s 49-24 victory last week.
“I was proud of the way we played in the second half,” Ladach said. “We played smart.”
Ladach hopes for more smart play against Novi, which enters with a 2-5 record.
“They’ve got some talented players,” Ladach said. “They’ve got some guys that have caused us some problems. Their skill position players are dynamic.”
Senior wide receiver Traveon Maddox gives the Wildcats a big play threat, and senior running back Kyle Klosterman is a dependable option.
“He’s really grinded out a few games for us,” Burnside said.
Quarterback Sean Gilliam directs the offense behind linemen Chad Howell, Matt Dialogo and Stephen Cadwell.
Defensively, safety Tyler Vankirk leads the secondary, and seniors Deshaun Clayton and Jordan Castleberry anchor the line.
Maddox and Klosterman also are key contributors at defensive back and linebacker, respectively.
Burnside said Novi has an inexperienced squad. The Wildcats had only one returning starter on offense this season, and 10 of the players on the varsity roster are playing football for the first time.
“If we can eliminate the mental mistakes, then we can be right there,” Burnside said. “You can’t make mental mistakes against Northville. They will hurt you.”
Novi had made the playoffs the past two seasons. Though that streak will come to an end this year, the team’s effort has encouraged the coach.
“They’ve been a hard-working group,” Burnside said. “We don’t have the record we want. But the kids kept fighting. They’ve got each other backs.”
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