The NECC big division has been, for lack of a better term, a mess. Nobody has jumped out to make themselves a clear cut favorite and Friday did more in terms of chaos than it did to steer toward clarity.
West Noble did its part at Garrett; both to the chaos and to lay claim to holding its own destiny in their hands now.
After a see-saw game of big plays, trick plays, costly turnovers and quality defensive stands, it came down to the foot of Julio Macias. The state’s leader in made field goals hit his second of the night as time ran out to give the Chargers a 20-19 win and spoil Garrett’s homecoming. In the meantime, they also planted their flag as the team at the top of the NECC big division standings.
West Noble can claim at least a share of the conference title next Friday when it hosts Lakeland. The Chargers are the only 2-1 team in the division while the Lakers, Garrett and Fairfield all now sit at 1-1.
“It’s a wake-up call honestly,” Macias said. “Coach has been telling us all season what the guys can really do and now they are playing for potential conference championship at our home field; it’s a boost for everybody.”
It took West Noble some time to get going on Friday. Garrett scored the only first half points, capitalizing on a Charger fumble to do so. Carson Harter scooped up the fumble, one of two he retrieved on the night, but Garrett was initially not able to move the ball much on that first quarter possession. On fourth down though, the Railroaders went with some trickery as Aaden Lytle took the snap and lateraled to receiver Kaiden Colburn, who tossed it 37 yards to the waiting arms of a wide-open Luke Holcomb in the end zone.
Later in the half, West Noble’s best scoring chance went empty as Drew Yates’ pass was picked off just short of the goal line by Garrett’s Brayden Baker as he and West Noble receiver Noah Dubea battled for position as the ball was in the air. It drew a bit of ire from the Charger sideline with no flag being thrown for pass interference as both players tugged at each other.
The third quarter saw Peter Bradley shift momentum to the Chargers. After a couple of missed defensive opportunities in the first half, Bradley finally picked Lytle off in Garrett territory, setting up the first Charger score on a Yates to Derek Slone touchdown pass.
The very next defensive possession saw Braxton Pruitt get involved in the pick off game, intercepting a Lytle pass and giving Macias his first field goal of the game from 35 yards to give West Noble its first lead.
With both teams having their turns controlling the game, it got wild at the end.
The two teams traded the lead with Garrett up 13-10 and West Noble up 17-13 before Lytle hammered in a touchdown with less than a minute to play. Lytle’s score, which capped an 186-yard passing, 40-yard rushing night, came after a desperation heave on fourth down. Pinned back near midfield with 26 yards to go for a first down, Lytle tossed a pass that was somehow hauled in by Trey Richards. Richards was stopped short of the goal line before Lytle finished the drive with the Railroaders thinking they had the game won late.
But, Garrett failed on its extra point attempt and with Macias’ leg in the game, anything was possible. The Chargers worked to get into range and once they did, it wast time for Macias to go to work.
“Honestly I knew the time was coming, so I had to focus up. I saw everybody playing their guts out and I know I had to finish it and it was going to lead to this moment,” Macias said. “They tried to ice me couple times, it didn’t work and once it was go time everything went silent in my head and the rest says it all.”
West Noble set Macias up for a 44 yard kick that went booming through the uprights with just seconds left on the clock.
“Once it went through, it just reminded me of how my name stands and what I’m made of,” Macias added.
West Noble now controls the NECC big division race with its lone loss coming to now last-place Angola (1-2). The Chargers have just one division game remaining.