The Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central High School varsity football team introduced itself to the Tri Valley Conference with a 47-6 victory over visiting St. Charles High School in the Panthers' TVC West debut at Boyd Field on the Nouvel CC campus in Saginaw Township Thursday night.
After spending the past 25 years as an independent, Nouvel was added to the TVC West; where it will begin competition with Hemlock, Pinconning, Ithaca, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw Valley Lutheran, St. Louis, and St. Charles beginning with the 2018-19 school year.
The Panthers stopped St. Charles (who had won the coin toss and chose to receive) on the opening drive of the game, forcing a three-and-out, followed by a punt; which was fielded near mid-field by Nouvel junior Zaiden Mitchell, who returned the punt deep into St. Charles territory, while a personal foul at the end of the run tacked on 15 yards, giving NCC the ball on the Bulldogs 27-yard line.
Mitchell's return, along with the penalty, would lead to a 1 yard touchdown run by Nouvel senior RB Josh Kuligowski, while NCC sophomore kicker Brady Alverson split the uprights for a 7-0 Panther lead with 7:08 to play in the opening quarter.
St. Charles started the next drive on its own 32-yard line, but only managed a 2 yard gain, followed by a 2 yard loss, before a pair of penalties led to another Bulldogs punt, which was returned by Mitchell deep into St. Charles territory once again.
Nouvel senior quarterback Michael Ehlman hit junior wideout John Paul LeFevre with a 3-yard pass on first down, which was followed by a 6-yard run from Kuligowski, before Ehlman scampered 13 yards for a touchdown on a quarterback keeper, as Alverson's kick was good for a 14-0 Panther lead with 3:06 left in the first quarter.
St. Charles junior Joey Gonzales sent a charge into the Bulldogs sidelines, fielding the ensuing kickoff at his own 23-yard line and returning the kick 57 yards down to the NCC 20-yard line, however, after St. Charles senior quarterback Michael Pratt completed a 13-yard pass to Gonzales, who fought his way down to the Nouvel 7-yard line, the Panther defense managed to jar the ball loose at the end of the play, opening the door for NCC junior linebacker Ryan Hunt, who came up with the fumble recovery to give NCC the ball back on its own 8-yard line.
Ehlman already had a rushing touchdown earlier in the game, so the lefty decided to air it out, going right to work with three straight completions; starting with a 31-yard strike to Mitchell, then finding sophomore wideout Josh Siler for a 23-yard pass, before capping the drive with a 24 yard touchdown pass to LeFevre, as Alverson's kick just missed, giving the Panthers a 20-0 lead with 11:55 remaining in the second quarter.
Following yet another three-and-out, St. Charles was forced to punt once again, giving the Panthers possession on its own 31-yard line, which led to a Nouvel drive deep into Bulldogs territory on a pair of long runs (19-yards and 17-yards) by NCC sophomore RB Ashton Wright, while Kuligowski broke loose for a big 28-yard gain, before crossing the goal line with a 2-yard TD run with 6:27 left in the second quarter, as Alverson nailed the kick for a 27-0 NCC lead heading into halftime.
Mitchell would give the Panthers great field position to start the third quarter, fielding the second half kickoff at the Nouvel 20-yard line and returning the kick 25 yards to the 45, giving NCC the ball near mid-field.
Ehlman quickly hit Kuligowski for a 17 yard pass completion on first down, which was followed by an 8 yard run by Mitchell, setting up a 20 yard TD run by Kuligowski, as Alverson's kick was good for a 34-0 Nouvel lead with 10:31 left to play in the third quarter.
St. Charles managed to push the ball deep into Nouvel territory on three strong runs (7-yards, 11-yards, and 8-yards) by Pratt, before Bulldogs senior RB Jackson Diffin rushed for 3 yards, then scored on a 4-yard rushing touchdown, but the extra point try failed as St. Charles cut the NCC lead to 34-6 with 5:04 left in the third quarter.
Ehlman would score his second rushing TD on a 1-yard keeper, which was set up by a 56 yard run by Kuligowski down to the St. Charles 7-yard line, however, Alverson's extra point try was blocked, as Nouvel advanced to a 40-6 lead with 3:35 to play in the third quarter.
The Panthers rounded out the scoring when Wright found a seam and broke loose for an 18 yard TD run, while Alverson nailed the extra point for a 47-6 Nouvel lead with 1:38 left to play in the third quarter.
After Gonzales suffered a severe leg injury, sidelining the St. Charles speedster, Pratt was left to carry the load for the Bulldog offense, wracking up 129 of his team's 152 total offensive yards, completing 5 of 14 passes for 46 passing yards, while adding 12-carries for another 83 yards rushing on the ground.
Diffin finished with the lone St. Charles rushing TD, adding 5-carries for 17-rushing yards to round out the Bulldogs offense.
Kuligowski powered the Nouvel offense with 174 total yards, which included 3 rushing TD's on 10-carries for 157-rushing yards on the ground, while adding 1-catch for 17-receiving yards.
Ehlman finished with 3 TD's (1-passing, 2-rushing) for 146 total yards, completing 7 of 12 passes for 105 passing yards through the air, while adding 7-carries for another 41 yards on the ground.
Wright had the other NCC rushing TD, adding 6-carries for 82 rushing yards, followed by sophomore Nick Ehlman (younger brother of Michael), who had 2-carries for 3 yards, Mitchell, with 1 carry for 2 yards, and Alverson with 2 carries.
Mitchell led all Nouvel receivers with 3 catches for 38-receiving yards, followed by LeFevre with 2 catches for 27 yards along with 1-receiving TD, and Siler with 1 catch for 23 yards.
St. Charles will host TVC West rival Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary for a 7 pm home game at St. Charles High School next Friday, while Nouvel travels to Hemlock for a 7 pm road game in another TVC West matchup with the Huskies at 7 pm at Hemlock High School next Friday night as well.
NCC coach Mike Boyd post game speech following 2017 MHSAA semi final win over West Iron County HS: