Walled Lake Northern is known for its high-octane offense, but in its meeting against Walled Lake Western, it was its defense that took center stage.
The Knights gutted out a 17-10 victory at home over the Warriors on Friday, Sept. 14, moving them back to the .500 mark at 2-2 and into a tie atop the Kensington Lakes Activities Association (KLAA) North Division with Walled Lake Central at 2-0.
After surrendering close to 100 points in its first two games, Northern’s defense now appears to have momentum after giving up just 14 points to Waterford Mott in Week 3 and last Friday’s performance against Western.
“I thought our defense has been getting better since the second half against (Plymouth) Salem (on Aug. 31),” said Northern Head Coach Brett Moore. “I think our defense played aggressive and got after it, they’re not worried about mistakes and are just having fun.”
Western fell to 2-2 and 1-1 in the KLAA North after a loss that dealt a blow to hopes of repeating as North Division champion.
“Our kids made good plays, but (Northern’s) kids made a few more plays than we did and they were timely,” said Western Head Coach Mike Zdebski. “Both teams played well. It’s an intra-city game and Northern’s a good team.”
The first quarter ended scoreless before Western’s Edwin Martinez recovered a Collin O’Donnell fumble and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown to give the Warriors a 7-0 advantage in the second quarter.
Kyle Bambard then missed a 51-yard field goal attempt on Western’s next drive and the Knights would tie the score at 7-7 with just 30 seconds left before halftime, as O’Donnell threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Josh Paul.
The Knights would then take a 14-7 lead in the third quarter as O’Donnell threw a 63-yard touchdown strike to Jake Ginster, which was his only catch of the night.
Bambard cut Northern’s lead with a 26-yard field goal with 4:30 left in the third.
However, Andrew Fee would kick a 21-yard field goal with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter and Northern’s defense would force two Western turnovers on downs to seal the victory.
Northern finished with 337 yards of total offense compared to 152 yards for Western.
O’Donnell completed 5-of-12 passes for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns while rushing for 50 yards on 26 carries for Northern, while Matt Kosmalski had 6 carries for 86 yards and also had 2 interceptions on defense.
Aaron Chretien had 9 total tackles for Northern, while Chase Burton had 7 tackles and Kody Harthun had 4 tackles, including a sack.
Bambard completed 11-of-29 passes for 100 yards and 2 interceptions while being held to 15 rushing yards on 7 carries for Western.
DeSean Walker also had 7 carries for 74 yards, while Jake Neracher had 6 receptions for 55 yards.
Josh Jones had 7 total tackles, followed by Tomone Jones with 6 tackles and Troy Thomas with 5 tackles. John Simmons also had a fumble recovery.
Western will next look to get back on track on Friday, Sept. 21 when hosting a winless Waterford Kettering team that almost upset Huron Valley Lakeland this past Friday.
“We just have to focus on getting six wins now,” Zdebski said.
Meanwhile, Northern has a golden opportunity to grab sole possession of of first-place in the KLAA North with a victory at home over Walled Lake Central on Friday, Sept. 21.
But, Northern is winless against Central in their eight previous meetings.
“We’re just going to approach them the same way we did against Western,” Moore said.