No matter who Lake Norman plays, opposing defenses know what is coming.
But few teams have been able to stop the Wildcats’ senior quarterback, Josh Ladowski, this season.
With a berth in the 4AA state quarterfinals on the line, Ladowski ran all over the place again, rushing for 247 yards and four touchdowns while passing for (15-for-21) 204 yards and two more scores to lead Lake Norman to a 41-26 win over Ardrey Kell.
The Wildcats (12-1) now will host Hough (a 42-29 winner over Independence) Friday night.
“I just try to go out and play for my teammates,” said Ladowski, who now has 3,207 yards passing and 32 touchdown passes and 1,706 yards and 29 touchdowns rushing on the season. “I was tired in the second half, but I didn’t think about that. I had to dig deep for my team.”
Lake Norman coach Rob McNeely was also impressed with his quarterback’s play.
“He’s unbelievable,” McNeely said. “I really don’t know what to say, he’s so good. But it’s not all about Josh. He had 10 other guys on every play that he depends on. Josh would be the first to tell you that a lot of those guys made big plays for us tonight, too. But Josh just wills us to win; he wills me every day in practice.”
After a tight first half with Lake Norman up 20-13, Ardrey Kell’s Omari Wingard was drilled on the opening kickoff of the second half and fumbled the ball with Wildcats’ Davis Belding recovering, setting up his team on the Knights’ 19-yard line.
Three Ladowski runs later, the Wildcat senior quarterback took a five-yard run in for a score and 27-13.
On the ensuing Ardrey Kell possession, the Knights’ quarterback, Bryce Maginley (9-for-21 for 119 yards passing, three interceptions, 110 yards rushing) was picked off by Lake Norman’s Trey Read at midfield.
Seven plays later, Ladowski found Baker White wide open in the end zone on a four-yard touchdown pass for a 34-13 lead midway through the third quarter.
But just when Lake Norman appeared to take total control of the game, Ardrey Kell (9-4) stormed back with 13 straight points of their own.
The first came when Knights’ senior tailback Bonte Freeman scored on a seven-yard run with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
Then, with 9:02 remaining in the final quarter, Ardrey Kell’s Matt Messler completely changed the momentum of the game when he picked off a Ladowski pass and raced 99 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 34-26.
But Ladowski had another answer for the Wildcats, going on an 11-play, 65-yard drive capped when he found Corey Joyner (five catches for 115 yards and a touchdown) on a 10-yard fade pass in the back of the end zone to extend the lead back to 41-26.
Lake Norman linebacker Jarrett Schott ended any hopes of an Ardrey Kell comeback with an interception on the Knights’ final offensive drive.