Northgate coach enjoys winning debut in 18-13 victory over Riverview
Northgate's Brandon LeDonne won't soon forget his first game as a head coach.
A touchdown by Flames running back Alex Marusic with 11 seconds left lifted Northgate to an 18-13 victory over Riverview in the Eastern Conference opener for both teams.
The play culminated a 12-play, 73-yard drive at Oakmont's Riverside Park.
“All of the things we've been preaching to our kids for two months, sticking together, being committed, trusting each other and the coaches, I couldn't be more prouder,” LeDonne said. “We don't have a lot of guys, but everybody played their role and the result was fabulous.”
Riverview took the lead, 13-12, with 11:17 remaining when quarterback Tyler Nigro, with his only pass completion of the day, hit Florida transferee Zach Hanus with a 25-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-7. Nikki Polens kicked the extra point to put the Raiders ahead.
After the Raiders took the lead, a Northgate drive was stopped by an interception by Will Medved at the Riverview 15. But Northgate forced the Raiders to punt, then got a big break.
Keir Barber's punt hit near the Northgate 30 but bounced back toward midfield before it was downed by Riverview at the 43.
Marusic caught a pass from Johnny Camello for 20 yards. Camello completed two other passes — a 10-yarder to Rodney Burrows and 8 yards to Mark Lodge. But the key to the drive was a 1-yard keeper at the Riverview 5. Camello was stood up by the Riverview front line but second effort earned the first down.
Two plays later, Marusic found a slight opening on the left side and slipped into the end zone.
“We made nice plays, we did,” Raiders coach Todd Massack said. “We would make a good play, offensively, then our defense would give up too many yards. We did good things on both sides of the football, but we have to stop making mistakes.”
Some of those good things happened on the game's opening possession, when Riverview drove to the Northgate 7. But a penalty and a loss on a rushing play — Raiders running back Raymar McCombs was stopped by Marusic at the 14 — necessitated a Raiders field goal try.
Polens barely missed a 31-yard field goal attempt when her kick went slightly right.
“We drove the ball down nicely; we had confidence in Nikki, and still do,” Massack said. “I thought it was good, but the officials had a better look at it.”
Jacob Massack's fumble recovery three plays later set up the opening touchdown by Nigro on a 1-yard burst.
Riverview fumbled at its 34 to end its next possession, and the Flames scored when Camello sidestepped several Riverview defenders and ran 13 yards for a touchdown.
After taking the second-half kickoff, Northgate got another break. Romello Snyder caught a tipped pass and broke free on an 87-yard scoring play less than a minute into the third quarter.
Dillon Provenza led Riverview with 71 rushing yards.
The clock was stopped frequently by numerous penalties, and a number of Riverview players sustained leg cramps in a game that lasted three hours and three minutes.
George Guido is a freelance writer.