Mustangs repel Chiefs' fourth-quarter surge to win, 28-19
There were a few electric Mustangs speeding in Canton Friday night -- the two-legged variety from Northville, not the four-wheeled Ford-built models.
Northville has started its football season 4-0 for the first time since 2015 with a heart-pounding 28-19 victory at Canton Friday night. It was the Mustangs' first win over the Chiefs since Oct. 18, 2013 (42-30) when two of their Friday night stars -- running back Caleb Moore and wide receiver Angelo Rodriguez -- were in second and third grade, respectively.
Moore rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown and hauled in a 35-yard scoring strike from senior quarterback Luca Prior (6-for-8, 147 yards, three TDs) while Rodriguez caught two touchdown passes from Prior -- a 7-yarder to extend the winners' lead to 21-7 three minutes into the second half and an 80-yard victory-clincher on a run-pass-option hitch pass with two minutes left.
Rodriguez was hemmed in by a trio of Chiefs a split second after he secured the clinching reception, but a couple jukes later he was headed down the east sidelines, chased unsuccessfully by two Canton defenders.
"Basically, on that play we want to complete the pass, stay in bounds and run some clock," Rodriguez said. "Once I caught it, I just wanted to make a play with my feet and that's what happened.
"This feels so good -- being 4-0 and going into next week against a great Brighton team. I'm very excited for this team. We deserve this. We've been working very hard."
Prior marveled at how Rodriguez escaped the gauntlet of Canton defenders on the deciding touchdown.
"It's all about trusting your guys," Prior said. "I love that kid (Rodriguez); he just makes plays. This feels so awesome to be a part of something like this. It's like us against the world. I love everybody on this team like they're my own brother. Tonight was an amazing moment for this program."
Prior said the way the community has supported the Mustangs this fall has been off-the-charts cool.
"We get so many students, so many families, so many youth football players at our games," he said. "It's an awesome time to be a Northville Mustang. I'm so proud of the community for sticking with us."
Canton, which trailed 14-7 at the half despite running 40 plays to Northville's seven, mounted a torrid fourth-quarter comeback. Senior quarterback Aiden Carr scored on a 2-yard naked bootleg with 7:26 to play. The Chiefs misfired on the extra point, making their deficit 21-13.
On the ensuing kickoff, Canton executed a perfect onside kick recovered by Michael Edelman at the 50. On the first play from scrimmage, Carr connected with Caleb Williams on a 50-yard touchdown hookup.
On the all-important two-point attempt, Carr was denied just short of the goal line by Mustang defenders Hunter Ladach, Owen Ross and Zachary Groot to preserve their 21-19 lead.
"I was the outside linebacker on the side of the field the quarterback ran," Ladach said. "I just pursued like I was supposed to and was able to trip him up a little bit until my guys got there to help me. That was a huge stop."
After Canton held Northville's offense to a three-and-out on their next possession, the Chiefs drove to the Mustang 25. Masis Caliskan's 42-yard field goal that would have given the hosts the lead sailed just wide of the left goal post.
Northville then sealed the deal with the 80-yard Prior-to-Rodriguez score.
The Chiefs legendary ground attack churned out 297 yards. Alex Guadagni paced the offense with 120 yards on 17 carries. Devon Pettus bulled his way to 89 yards on 21 carries while Williams ran for 73 yards on 14 attempts.
Carr's only completion on five attempts was his long TD to Williams.
Following a scoreless first quarter, Canton seized a 7-0 lead with 9:56 remaining in the first half on Williams' 2-yard TD run and Caliskan's extra point.
Northville countered 26 seconds later when Moore bounced outside after getting stuffed up the middle and raced 44 yards to paydirt. Sam Wiest boomed the extra point.
The Mustangs carried a 14-7 advantage into the half when Prior flipped a spiral to a wide-open Moore who ran uncontested into the end zone for a 35-yard score.
The TD was set up when Max Anderson partially blocked a Canton punt.
Northville Head Coach Matt Ladach raved about his team's effort against a Canton program that his given the Mustangs fits for the past decade.
"And the resilience they showed toward the end," Ladach said. "Things were not going well for a couple minutes there -- Canton was making play after play, delivering dagger after dagger. But on that two-point conversion, our boys were not about to let them get in. Really, we had no business stopping that play, but it was just all about effort."
Northville hosts Brighton Friday at 7 p.m. in a battle of 4-0 teams. Canton (1-3) travels to Novi next Friday.