Boys Varsity Football · Braves defense sparks 37-20 victory over Northfield

37 Maconaquah High School
20 Northfield Jr-Sr High School
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Maconaquah High School vs Northfield Jr-Sr High School
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The Maconaquah Braves turned a close 15-13 halftime lead into a 37-20 win at Northfield Friday night, thanks to a tenacious, hard-hitting defense that keyed the turnaround. The win, coupled with Southwood’s win over Peru sets up Friday’s pivotal Three Rivers Conference south division showdown in which the winner will advance to the TRC championship game in two weeks.
Southwood is rolling along unbeaten (7-0) and ranked fourth in both the AP and coaches polls in Class 1A and has the state’s best defensive average, holding opponents to around 3 points an outing. The Braves, meanwhile, are currently riding a five-game winning streak and are off to their best start (6-1) since 1991 when MHS won its last conference title.
For the second straight week, Maconaquah failed to scored in the opening quarter, but took its first lead at 8-0 when Carter Little scampered in from 14 yards out on the first play of the second act. Zack Bullock added the successful conversion run.
The Norse closed the gap to 8-7 in a hurry by returning the ensuing kick up the middle for a 90-yard TD. After forcing a Brave punt, the hosts put together an 80-yard, 11-play scoring drive late in the half and suddenly MHS was staring at its first deficit in the TRC this season, 13-8.
With 2:19 remaining until intermission, Bullock returned the kickoff to his own 38 and Little got to the 41 on first down. Facing a second-and-seven, quarterback Nolan Kelly delivered picture-perfect strike to Little coming out of the backfield and watched him romp 59 yards to paydirt with 1:26 left. Richie Leary added the PAT for a 15-13 Brave lead that they would not relinquish.
Defensive coordinator Ray Shepherd’s bone-jarring “D” turned the up the heat in the third quarter as a fumble recovery by Colin Silvers set up another Little score from four yards out (Leary PAT) with 7:36 left in the third stanza. The lead ballooned to 30-13 at 2:03 when junior Cole Wininger joined the fun by scooping up a fumble and rambling 33 yards to paydirt. Little ran in the conversion.
After forcing a Northfield punt, the Braves tacked on another score late in the quarter when Kelly hit Jared Blake with a nice 25-yard scoring strike. Leary added the PAT and MHS led 37-13 heading into the final quarter. Kelly finished with four-of-four accuracy, good for 86 yards and the pair of scores.
Northfield ran more plays (68-37) and won the total offense battle (218-203) but Coach Austin Colby’s gang survived the “trap game” after emotional wins over Peru and North Central and can now look forward to the huge “Senior Night” showdown next week.
Seniors Paxton Kintner and RJ Beam were each credited with 12 tackles, while Corey Jones and Little pitched in with 11 stops. Big Adam Bowman added 10 and stymied the Norse passing attack with numerous pass break-ups. Jason Hamm picked off a Norse pass late in the second period, setting the tone for Mac’s second-half defensive surge and the win.