Northlake Christian rallies to beat No. 3 Eagles
By: GEOFFREY STOUTE
COVINGTON — Northlake Christian will remember this one for the comeback. Central Catholic will remember it for what it failed to secure.
Northlake Christian rallied from a 13-point fourth quarter deficit to shock CCHS, Class 1A’s third-ranked squad, 28-27 here on Friday.
Trailing 27-14 early in the fourth, the Wolverines rallied with touchdowns on consecutive drives — a Mallery Mele 11-yard run with 6:46 remaining and a Josh O’Rear 1-yard run on fourth down with 1:47 left in the game.
The Wolverines stopped CCHS on its ensuing drive on four downs to preserve the win.
“Central’s a good football team,” Northlake coach Anthony Agresta said. “(They are) a well coached football team with a lot of great football players on it and we knew we had our hands full tonight. We hadn’t played, defensively, well for three weeks and our kids just (had the) purpose in their mind that they were going to come out and play some defense tonight. We were just glad to see us play a little defense.”
Mele, who carried the rushing load for Northlake with 24 carries for 226 yards and a score, got the comeback started with 67 rushing yards on the 71-yard drive.
He capped it off with an 11 yard run on his fifth carry of the drive.
Mele, who doubles as the team’s place kicker, booted the extra point through, cutting the CCHS lead to 27-21 with 6:46 remaining in the game.
CCHS moved the ball down to the Northlake 39 yard line on the ensuing possession, but the drive stalled with a crucial offensive pass interference penalty on CCHS’ Luke Landry on third down and 5 as he attempted to haul in a pass from quarterback Josh Singleton near the goal line.
The 15-yard penalty pushed the Eagles back to its own 46 yard line where Singleton punted to the Wolverines with about 3:15 left.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Mele broke a 60 yard run down to the CCHS 10.
Mele gained 9 yards total on consecutive carries to move the pigskin up to the CCHS 1.
Following a CCHS timeout, O’Rear — Northlake’s quarterback — was stuffed for no gain on third down.
CCHS again called timeout, before O’Rear lined up his troops on fourth down and leaped forward, breaking the plane of the end zone with the football for the score.
Mele sent the home side of the stadium into a frenzy after he pounded the extra point through the uprights for a 28-27 Northlake Christian lead with 1:45 remaining.
CCHS could gain just 5 yards on its final possession, a 4 yard Singleton run and a 1 yard pass from Singleton to Tyler Hoffpauir on a fourth- down-and-6 play with 1:11 left to give the Wolverines the ball back to run out the clock.
In the win, Northlake Christian pounded the football for 279 rushing yards.
In addition to Mele, O’Rear added 24 yards on 13 carries and two scores while passing for 50 yards and another score.
“I just have to give all the credit to Northlake Christian,” CCHS coach David Fuhrer said. “They just came ready to play.”
Despite the defeat, CCHS totaled 373 yards — 232 rushing and 141 passing.
The Eagles’ offense began the game with touchdowns on its first three possessions.
Hoffpauir opened the scoring with an 8-yard run with 7:36 remaining in the first quarter, while O’Rear responded with a 5-yard run with 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter, knotting the game at 7.
Lloyd Grogan scored on a 7-yard run with 11:31 remaining in the second quarter for the Eagles’ second score, but place kicker Dontrell Brown’s extra point hit off the right goal post, leaving CCHS with a 13-7 lead.
CCHS extended its lead on a Conner LeBlanc 7-yard reception from Singleton with 1:41 remaining in the first half. Grogan added a two-point run for a 21-7 Eagle lead.
Singleton completed 13 of 22 passes for 141 yards and two scores, while rushing 13 times for 77 yards. LeBlanc caught three passes for 47 yards and a score.
Northlake closed the gap at 21-14 with 10 seconds remaining in the half on an O’Rear 5-yard pass to Will Sigl.
After failing to score on an opening drive that stalled at the Wolverine 20, the Eagles rebounded on its second possession of the second half on a Singleton 17-yard pass to Grogan.
Grogan, replacing Brown on the point after attempt, could not convert, leaving CCHS with a 27-14 lead with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter.
Grogan led the CCHS offense with 10 carries for 98 yards and a score and added one reception for 12 yards and another touchdown.
“We came out flat,” Fuhrer said. “We made some mistakes, shot ourselves in the foot. We had opportunities to score. We had a great drive to start the second half and just turned the ball over on downs, and they just drove down and scored” later in the half.
Fuhrer declined comment when asked about Brown’s inactivity in the second half, calling it an “internal” issue.
In the second quarter, the junior had been flagged for a personal foul for shoving a Northlake Christian player who had committed a facemask penalty on him.