In rolling to wins in their first eight games, No. 8 Northgate had not trailed by more than a touchdown and had only one game as close as 14 points, but in the middle of the third quarter Friday against Whitewater, the Vikings found themselves in a huge hole with nothing working.
So they rolled out the passing game.
Senior quarterback Bret Misutka completed 7 of 9 passes for 166 yards for Northgate which overcame a 17-0 third-quarter deficit and won 27-24.
The win secures the top spot in Region 3-AAAA Division B for Northgate (9-0, 6-0), meaning an automatic state playoff berth and an appearance in the region championship game next week.
Even Misutka seemed bewildered at the comeback.
“We’re 9-0,” Misutka said. “I can’t believe it.”
Misutka connected on touchdown passes to Payton Usher (36 yards) and Brandon Facyson (32) in a span of eight scoreboard clock seconds to jump-start the comeback, and his 53-yard pass to Kyle Kovacs set up the go-ahead score, which came on Kovacs’ 7-yard run on an untimed down to end the third quarter.
Northgate scored 20 points in a span of six minutes and amassed 257 total yards in the final quarter and a half.
“We needed a game like this,” said Northgate coach Tommy Walburn. “We hadn’t had anything like this all year. I just told them I guess we’ll work on the passing game.”
Trey Wafford carried 23 times for 131 yards and a touchdown for Whitewater (7-2, 5-1), which will play in a 3-AAAA play-in game next week.
Whitewater opened the game with a 17-play drive that ate up 10:37 of the first-quarter clock and led to a 27-yard field goal by Austin Barnard.
Wafford’s 2-yard run at the 4:16 mark of the second period capped an eight-play drive and gave the Wildcats a 10-0 cushion.
Usher fumbled during the return of the second-half kickoff, and Whitewater converted it into points, getting a 4-yard run from Kendall Conley for a 17-0 lead. At that point, Whitewater had run 38 plays to 12 for Northgate, which had 31 total yards.
The Vikings moved 72 yards in five plays to get on the board, scoring on the 36-yard pass from Misutka to Usher at the 6:04 mark, cutting the lead to 17-7.
A personal foul penalty against White was assessed on the kickoff, and Northgate recovered an on-side kick at the Whitewater 32, setting up Misutka’s second touchdown pass, this one on the next play to Facyson.
After Kovacs’ touchdown, Northgate pushed its lead to 10 on a 2-yard run by Usher, who finished the night with 60 yards on 10 carries. Whitewater pulled within 27-24 on a 30-yard run by John Mark Rhodes, but with no timeouts left – the Wildcats used all three of their second-half timeouts in the first six minutes of the third period – their comeback stalled.