Vikings erase early deficit for victory over Beavers

Published 3:08 pm Saturday, September 6, 2003

By By DAN WEISS / Niles Daily Star
BATTLE CREEK -- It only took the Niles football team three plays to figure out how to stop the Harper Creek offense, but by then it was almost too late as the Vikings overcame an early deficit to sneak away with a 26-22 Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference victory Friday night.
The Beavers needed just three plays to build a 14-0 lead after just 3:20 of action.
An onside kick to open the game gave Harper Creek possession at its own 47-yard line and on the second play from scrimmage Chris Noora went 45 yards for the score.
Niles managed just 16 yards of offense on its first possession and punted, giving the Beavers possession at their own seven-yard line. After a penalty pushed Harper Creek back to the four-yard line, Noora ran 96 yards on the first play of the drive for another touchdown. Mark Hosking kicked both extra points to give the Beavers a 14-0 lead.
Niles, however, did not give up and scored 19 unanswered points while holding the Beavers to negative yardage in the second quarter.
Lonnie Jones, who scored four touchdowns for the Vikings in last week's season opener, scored the first of his three touchdowns Friday night on the first play from scrimmage following Harper Creek's second touchdown. Jones broke free for an 85-yard sweep around the left side. Marcus Lawshea's extra point closed the lead to 14-7.
A high snap on a punt attempt by the Beavers gave the Vikings possession at the Harper Creek eight-yard line with 6:06 left in the first quarter. On second-and-goal Karyce Pulliam punched the ball into the end zone from two yards out. Lawshea's extra point attempt was blocked and Niles still trailed 14-13.
The Niles defense wasn't fooled any longer by Harper Creek's Wing-T offense and held the Beavers to negative eight yards on the ground in the second quarter.
With 1:11 left before halftime, Niles took possession at its own 39-yard line. On the sixth play of the drive, Jones sprung free for a 47-yard touchdown. The Vikings attempt at a two-point conversion failed and they took a 19-14 lead into the second half.
Niles had possession of the ball for just 1:45 of the third quarter as Harper Creek mounted an 18-play drive that lasted the final 8:02 of the third period and the first three seconds of the fourth quarter. The drive ended when Noora went four yards for his third touchdown. A two-point conversion by Zach Labrecque gave Harper Creek a 22-19 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Niles' Eddie Fultz received the ball at the 21-yard line and took off for a 22-yard return, giving Niles possession at its own 43-yard line. It took just five plays for Jones to find an opening and score from 28 yards out. Lawshea's extra point kick was good to give Niles a 26-22 lead.
Three more the Niles defense thwarted Harper Creek possessions, forcing the Beavers to punt once and taking over on downs once before Otis West picked off a desperation pass attempt to seal the victory.
Jones finished with 300 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns. He now has more than 500 yards on the season and has scored seven touchdowns.
Noora racked up 183 yards on 18 carries for the Beavers. He also scored three times.
The Niles defense held Harper Creek to 236 yard of total offense and just 90 yards after the two early touchdown plays.
The Vikings managed 321 total yard of offense.
Niles, now 2-0, hosts Battle Creek Central next Friday for another SMAC game.