The run is mightier than the pass.
Lake Norman’s football team took its time proving that particular point.
The Wildcats, making their regular-season homefield debut, scored their third rushing touchdown – offsetting the matching of the same number they allowed through the airways – with 11 seconds to play to complete a stirring, come-from-behind, 28-24 triumph over perennial I-Meck Conference powerhouse Mallard Creek.
With the win, a complete reversal of previous fortunes also exited play. Lake Norman improved to the 2-0 mark both for the season overall and in I-Meck play, standards that will walk hand-in-hand all campaign long, while Mallard Creek – a multiple-time past league and state champion – slipped to 0-2 on both accounts.
Workhorse Lake Norman junior fullback Caleb Douthit struck pay dirt from 14 yards out to scratch for both his and his team’s third TD on the ground to put the Wildcats ahead to stay late in the fourth frame and senior placekicker Nick McCue followed with his third successful point-after kick to give the Wildcats their final exclamation point. A desperation pass from near half field fell incomplete on the part of Mallard Creek’s Mavericks on the final play of the game.
“Never give up,” said senior linebacker Bradley Wilson, one of the team’s co-captains, to his teammates as Lake Norman used a defensive stand to turn the ball over on downs and gain possession near midfield with 49 seconds shy of the two-minute warning left to play. “This game isn’t over.”
From that point, the offense took charge. Douthit, who handed the bulk of the ground gaining duties, rattled off one 14-yard carry before a crucial pass connection between Wildcats’ quarterback Anthony Limon and receiver Crishon Shepard covering another 15 yards gave the Wildcats possession just outside Mallard Creek’s 10-yard line. Just two plays later, Douthit twisted his way into the end zone for the game-winning strike.
Earlier, in a back-and-forth affair that featured as many as six lead changes, Douthit twice found the target on carries covering 10 yards in the second quarter and a mere two-yards just past the midway mark of fourth quarter play, respectively. Each time, kicker McCue responded on cue with PAT boots.
While the majority of Lake Norman’s scoring damage came via its rushing attack, the night’s points production spark on the part of the Wildcats evolved courtesy of specialty team play.
Responding to their second deficit of the game and first since the first period, the Wildcats asked for and received a burst of energy thanks to kick return specialist – among his multiple responsibilities – Shepard’s catch and run of a Mavericks kickoff covering 90 yards and culminating with a TD. On the heels of that particular scoring blow, a successful two-point conversion followed on a pass-play connection between thrower Jason Morrow and catcher Limon.
For a second straight game, the Wildcats spread the wealth in the rushing department with as many as eight different ball carriers took turns taking turns with the ball. On the passing front, a limited attack on the part of the Wildcats found favorite target tight end Jace Neely on the receiving end of half the four pass completions made by Limon.
Tossing an element of surprise into the game’s early proceedings, Lake Norman’s Will Sauder recovered an on-sides kick that rewarded the Wildcats possession following Douthit’s first scoring run in the second quarter.
Off to the fast start, Lake Norman stays put at home in its next appearance to host a Hough High entry also off to a matching beginning to I-Meck play. Bell time is set for 7 p.m. Friday night.