3 big plays let Novi Detroit CC pull away from Orchard Lake St. Mary’s

Novi Detroit Catholic Central's Matt Harding, after a 28-7 win over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016.

Novi Detroit Catholic Central’s Matt Harding, after a 28-7 win over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016.

A typical pound-the-ball, knock-’em-down, in-the-trenches battle and 7-7 tie between Novi Detroit Catholic Central and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s was flipped like a switch in just three plays late in the third quarter Friday night, eventually giving the Shamrocks a 28-7 win on the road.

DCC broke open the Catholic League Central Division game when, on the Shamrocks’ first play of a new possession, Nick Capatina raced 72 yards up the right sideline for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead. On the first play of the ensuing possession by the Eaglets, a fumble on a run up the middle had bodies flying as the ball scooted out into the open and right in front of senior defensive back Matt Harding. He gathered it up and ran 28 yards to the 2-yard line. On the next play, Cameron Ryan punched it in for a touchdown and a 21-7 Shamrock lead with 4:22 left in the third quarter.

“I saw there was no one else around it. I was able to make a clean scoop, so I thought I could make the play, maybe get in the end zone, but it ended up giving our offense a great shot,” Harding said about the decision to not fall on the ball as most coaches instruct.

Just like veteran coach Tom Mach teaches.

“I thought he did it very athletically,” Mach said after the game with a little chuckle. “So, I was happy about that. Otherwise, we could have been kicking it around, and I’m glad we didn’t do that. Getting possession is what’s most important, and he seemed to handle it and did a great job getting it down toward the goal line. That was really big.

“We got fortunate there and were able to score on them a couple quick times. In a big game like this, I was really happy with the way our kids responded to being scored on, then coming back to make it even at the half.”

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DCC dominated the time of possession in the first half — 17:30 to 6:30 — but St. Mary’s scored first when RaShawn Allen plowed into the end zone from 2 yards to give the Eaglets a 7-0 lead with 4:04 remaining until halftime. Then a 52-yard pass reception by Isaiah Popp, who had to sidestep a defender, tied the score at 7-7 with 1:32 remaining in the half.

After the three big plays, DCC got a bigger cushion when Capatina (117 yards rushing) scored again on a 9-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.

DCC quarterback Austin Brown, who entered the game with a 52% pass completion rate, went 12-for-17 (71%) for 216 yards, avoiding the rush and extending plays with athletic scrambling.

“I thought we gave him good protection for a while, but he also bought more time for himself,” Mach said of Brown. “St. Mary’s defensive backs are really good. It’s hard to get your patterns open against them. They covered us very well, and he did the best he could to move out of the pocket and cause things to happen, got us first downs.”

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