In a word, Friday night was ‘1’-derful for Northville’s football team.
Fueled by No. 1 Colin Charles’ epic night, the Mustangs steamrolled Brighton 42-18 to advance to the Nov. 3 Division 1 district final at home against Novi Detroit Catholic Central.
The Shamrocks, who eliminated Northville in last season’s district title game, ousted Novi 49-22 Friday.
The 9-1 Mustangs will be in search of their first district championship in 23 years and their first 10-win season since 2015.
Everything Charles touched Friday night turned to gold — and points.
The junior hauled in five Isaac Pace passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns, had five carries for 83 yards — and even threw a 26-yard trick-play touchdown pass to fellow junior Kaden Kuban.
He probably would have done a really nice job of driving the team bus back to the school, too, if it had been a road game.
Charles’ evening would have been even more spectacular if a 25-yard first-quarter TD grab had not been nullified by a holding penalty.
“I’m just very thankful to my teammates and the glory of God because without them, none of this tonight would have been possible,” said Charles, who is as humble as he is fast.
Charles said it was important that the Mustangs eradicate the memory of last week’s 42-0 loss to No. 1-ranked Belleville from their minds.
“Once we practiced Monday, we knew it was time to move forward,” said Charles. “Every week the game starts out zero-to-zero and you have to erase the previous week’s game from your memory.”
The Mustangs constructed a commanding 20-3 halftime lead, which they extended to 28-3 on an 81-yard Pace-to-Charles TD connection one minute into the second half.
“Offensively, we were clicking tonight and we threw the ball around a little better than we have the past couple of weeks,” said Northville Head Coach Brent Luplow. “We knew going into tonight that our play-makers needed to make plays, and they definitely did.
“Colin had a heckuva game. He’s such a great kid and a great athlete. He works his butt off in the weight room and at practice. Things haven’t always gone perfectly for Colin, but he was awesome tonight. It’s probably one of the best individual performances in Northville High School history.”
Luplow also had high praise for his defense, which held Brighton’s explosive offense in check until the latter stages of the contest when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
A-plus for ‘D’
“Our defense is tough to score on,” Luplow said. “Once we got a pretty big lead tonight, we stayed in our base defense and just tried to keep everything in front of us.”
It wasn’t difficult to locate Northville senior linebacker Owen Ross Friday night. You just had to listen for the thunderous sounds of crashing pads.
Ross delivered multiple jarring tackles on defense as well as a few big play-producing blocks on offense.
“Owen is a great kid, one of our captains,” Luplow said. “He really knows how to turn it up in the big games. Owen is a physical, physical football player; he’s an old-school player. He really clogs up the middle for us, makes it hard for opposing teams to run the ball.”
Ross, Cooper Hoffman and Hassan Elzayat all recorded sacks against Brighton’s usually-elusive quarterback Grant Hetherton.
The Mustangs scored on their opening drive — a long, clock-devouring possession — when senior Nick Helner out-fought two Bulldog DBs for the ball in the corner of the end zone with 2:52 left in the first quarter.
After forcing Brighton to punt, Northville extended its advantage to 14-0 on a 52-yard Charles scoring reception.
The Bulldogs got on the board five minutes before halftime thanks to a 23-yard fake-punt pass from Hetherton to Jason Eisinger that set up a 30-yard Braeden Chiles field goal to bring the visitors to within 14-3.
But Northville countered quickly when — with the ball on the Brighton 26-yard line — Pace threw a lateral to Charles, who was near the visitors’ sideline.
Charles then rifled a pass to a wide-open Kuban, who jogged into the end zone to make it 20-3.
“I’ve thrown a couple other passes before that one, but that’s my first touchdown pass,” Charles said, beaming. “I knew Kaden was going to make the play as soon as the ball left my hand.”
Leading 35-18, Northville capped the scoring on a 7-yard run by Kuban, who bulldozed a Brighton DB at the goal line.
Ross led the Mustangs with eight tackles. He also recovered a fourth-quarter fumble.
Along with his two touchdowns, Kuban piled up 140 total yards (85 rushing, 55 receiving).
Playing in his final high school game, Hetherton completed 30 of 43 passes for 345 yards.
Thank you to Jeff Vos for providing official statistics.
Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.