North Hills' defense comes up with big plays in win over Butler
North Hills found a simple solution for a stifled offense.
“When you put a zero on the board, that makes it so much easier for the offense,” said North Hills' Josh Hulbert, who returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown Friday night, the highlight of a strong defensive effort by the Indians in a 14-0 victory over Butler at Martorelli Stadium.
A 20-yard run by quarterback Brian Johnson gave North Hills the lead on its first possession, which was the only time the offense moved inside Butler 29-yard line. But the Indians' defense made that lead stand with tackles for loss, two forced turnovers and a few timely sacks.
“It's just a good feeling for the defense,” Hulbert said.
Butler had its chances and usually good field position.
The Golden Tornado moved 78 yards on the game's opening drive, including a 34-yard run by quarterback Jordan Cratty and a 19-yard pass to wideout Canan Roskovski. But facing first-and-goal at the 1, tailback Kolby Kriess was hit hard and fumbled through the end zone for a touchback.
That sparked North Hills' defense.
“That's big momentum when you get the first score,” Hulbert said. “I'm glad we were able to stop them there. That carried us.”
Butler ran 31 first-half plays, and 26 took place in North Hills territory.
One drive started at North Hills' 43. Another at North Hills' 40. But both stalled when Cratty was tackled for large losses — 17 and 14 yards — by Anthony Danko, Brandon Malick and Elliot King.
Hulbert's interception came with 10:58 left in the fourth, followed by a key sack from Max Ungerman and a tackle for loss by Corey Bopp on Butler's final play.
Butler had more first downs (16-9), offensive plays (57-39) and total yards (215-195), but North Hills (3-1, 2-1) grabbed the Quad North win. The Indians, who missed the postseason a year ago, are trying to prove their playoff worth again.
Tyler Reddick, who missed last week with an injury, rushed for 92 yards on 13 carries. Hulbert had 82 on 15.
Despite a two-touchdown loss, Butler (2-2, 2-2) came away with added confidence. A year ago, the Golden Tornado were blown away by North Hills, 38-0. This time, in their second season under coach Clyde Conti, they were far more competitive.
Minus the 31 yards in losses, Cratty rushed for 97 yards.
“I'm still proud of our effort,” Conti said. “We've come a long way from where we were. We've come an awful long way.”
Butler hasn't had winning record since 1997, but Hulbert saw a much different team than a season ago. Already, Butler has two Quad North wins, which ended a 28-game conference losing streak.
“They were a lot more team-oriented,” he said. “They seemed like they knew what to do. They played hard, but we played harder.”
With 5:34 left in the first quarter, Johnson's weaving run gave North Hills a 7-0 lead. The touchdown ended a seven-play, 80-yard drive.
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5666.