Lake Norman was hoping to avoid a repeat of its last-second regular-season loss to Hough in Friday’s playoff game.
Thanks to the Wildcats’ defense, they can look forward to playing another week.
Lake Norman’s defense came up with three key fourth-quarter stops, allowing the Wildcats to pull ahead for a 52-42 victory over the Huskies in the third round of the 4AA playoffs.
That sets up another home playoff game next week for third-seeded Lake Norman (13-1), against possibly its toughest opponent this season – defending 4AA state champion Mallard Creek (13-1), a 49-21 winner over Providence on Friday.
Josh Ladowski accounted for 351 total yards and five touchdowns for the Wildcats, who have now won 11 consecutive games since an early-season 35-31 loss to Hough (10-4).
But it was Lake Norman’s defense that came through in the clutch, with linebacker Jarrett Schott coming up with back-to-back interceptions that set up Wildcats scores to break a 35-35 tie.
“We just did our job,” Schott said. “We started clicking as a team, we did our job and made things happen.”
Before that, the Huskies were running neck-and-neck with the Wildcats – Bishop Ford ran for 229 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Will Coleman threw for 205 yards and three TDs, two going to Corey Bell Jr.
But Schott’s interceptions changed the game’s momentum.
His first pick, with 7 minutes, 50 seconds left, set up Ladowski’s third TD run, a 3-yard keeper that gave Lake Norman a 42-35 lead. The second pick, with 5:13 remaining, led to Simon Wilding’s 27-yard field goal and a 45-35 Wildcats lead.
“We knew it was going to be a shootout to the end,” said Ladowski, who ran for 205 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 146 yards and two scores. “Then my guy gets those two picks in a row, and you could sense the momentum changing right there.”
Lake Norman’s defense then stopped Hough on downs, setting up Austin Vaseleniuck’s second TD run, an 18-yarder with 1:01 remaining that put the Wildcats up 52-35 and put the game out of reach for the Huskies.
“We learned from the last game, but we both came into this game 2-0,” said Lake Norman coach Rob McNeely. “I knew our defense was going to step up and make a stop when we needed them to.”