CINCINNATI – North Union coach Nick Hajjar was concerned with Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy’s quick-strike attack prior to their Division V playoff opener Friday night.
“They have a potent offense and can put points up in a hurry,” Hajjar said.
The host Eagles did exactly that during a 49-27 victory over Hajjar’s Wildcats at Lindner Athletic Field.
The longest scoring drive for CHCA (10-1) in the first half which ended with the Eagles up 28-13 was just a seven-play march.
The other point-producing drives in the first 24 minutes for the Miami Valley Conference champions consisted of one, four and five plays as the Wildcats (5-6) got into a deep hole. CHCA added more fast scores in the second half.
North Union was able to tally a pair of first-half scores against the Eagles, who came into the contest with a nine-game winning streak while making their sixth straight playoff appearance.
The first TD enabled the Wildcats, playoff competitors for the sixth time in the past seven seasons, to take a lead in the opening quarter.
CHCA hit paydirt first on a 44-yard scamper by quarterback Johnny Noyen, a 1,000-yard passer and runner during the regular season. The Eagles, however, misfired on the PAT kick to lead 6-0.
North Union grabbed the advantage on the scoreboard late in the initial period thanks to a grinding 13-play drive. A key play which kept it going was a 14-yard run by quarterback Tim Gilliland on fourth-and-seven to go from the Eagles’ 14.
Gilliland called his own number on the next play and burst through the line for the TD. Luke Krawczyk’s PAT boot gave NU a 7-6 lead with 1:04 left in the period.
A four-play CHCA drive to take the lead back started in the third period and ended on the first play of the second period when Noyen passed 44 yards to Adam Baker for a touchdown. Noyen then rushed for the 2-point conversion as CHCA went back on top 14-7.
A lost fumble on its own 19-yard line then cost North Union another score. Noyen did the damage from 19 yards out on the first play from scrimmage and Baker split the uprights with his extra-point kick for a 21-7 Eagles advantage.
North Union responded with 3:37 left in the first half as Nate Hammons raced five yards for a TD. Earlier in that possession he covered 33 yards on a run to put the Wildcats in good position deep in CHCA territory.
A kick for the extra point failed, but NU sliced its deficit to 21-13.
As fast as the CHCA offense can move, the final three minutes of the half proved to be no obstacle for the Eagles.
Their longest march of the half, one of seven plays, took place and concluded with a six-yard TD run by Kesean Gamble. A Baker PAT kick gave the winners their 15-point halftime edge.
Another seven-play CHCA drive, this one to start the third period, gave the Eagles even more breathing room on the scoreboard. It finished with a 40-yard TD pass from Noyen to Baker, who followed with the PAT kick for a 35-13 advantage.
To pour more salt into the wound, Hammons, the ‘Cats’ leading rusher this season, had to leave the game on the next series with an injury.
North Union bounced back after Henry Miller recovered a fumble for the Wildcats.
Gilliland and Wyatt Pertuset hooked up for eight points. Gilliland threw to Pertuset for a 41-yard TD with some nifty running by Pertuset at the end of the play, and he then hit Pertuset for the PAT.
CHCA quickly answered as Noyen raced 57 yards for a score on the Eagles’ third play from scrimmage. A missed PAT kick made the tally 41-21, Cincinnati Hills.
Hammons returned on the following series for the ‘Cats but could not help ignite the NU offense.
A North Union muff on a punt led to a 45-yard TD pass from Danny Vanatsky to Baker. Noyen ran for two on the conversion to expand CHCA’s lead to 49-21 early in the final period.
North Union’s final points came from Krawczyk, who scored on a 3-yard run to close out a 13-play drive. A run for the PAT failed.