The Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central football team advanced to the MHSAA division 8 semi final game with a convincing 54-34 quarter final victory over Lincoln Alcona for the regional championship on the Nouvel campus tonight.
Nouvel's defense held the Tigers on its first 4-plays from scrimmage and wasted little time scoring when junior Josh Kuligowski's 55-yard scamper set up a 12-yard rushing score for senior QB Tate Hausbeck, who carried it in himself for a touchdown, as junior Jacob Burr kicked the extra point for a 7-0 NCC lead with 9:47 left in the opening quarter.
Nouvel added to its lead when Kuligowski scored from the 5-yard line, as Burr's kick gave the Panthers a 14-0 lead with 2:56 left in the first quarter.
Just two plays into Alcona's next drive, Kuligowski's older brother, senior Justin Kuligowski, intercepted Tiger QB Alex Stephenson's pass, setting up a 39 yard quick strike from Hausbeck to sophomore Sam Buckingham for a 39-yard passing TD, while Burr's kick would give NCC a 21-0 lead with 1:02 left in the first quarter.
The aggressive Panther defense pinned Alcona deep once again, forcing a punt, when a high snap over the Alcona punter's head would give NCC the ball on the 5-yard line, setting up a 5-yard rushing TD for the older Kuligowski, as Burr nailed his fourth straight extra point for a 28-0 Nouvel lead with 8:26 to play in the second quarter.
Alcona answered with a ball-control drive, capped off with a 1-yard rushing TD by Stephenson, but the 2-point try failed as the Tiger's cut the NCC lead to 28-6 with 8:26 left in the second quarter.
Hausbeck then hit Buckingham again, this time for an 11-yard passing TD, but the extra point failed, as Nouvel increased its lead to 34-6 with 6:55 left in the first half.
Alcona senior RB Jack Hutchison broke loose for a 42-yard rushing TD, while Stephenson hit junior TE Damion Stewart for the 2-point conversion to make it a 3 score game with 4:40 left in the second quarter, as the Panthers headed for halftime with a comfortable 34-14 lead.
The Tiger's executed a successful on-side kick to open the second half, taking possession to start the third quarter, while marching deep into Panther territory, before Hutchison took it in from the 1-yard line, but the 2-point try failed as Alcona narrowed the Nouvel lead to 34-20 with 9:09 left in the third quarter.
After another squib kick by Alcona, Nouvel would answer with a quick score when Hausbeck showed off his running ability, taking the first play from scrimmage for a 58-yard TD scamper, as Burr kicked the extra point for a 41-20 NCC lead with 8:56 left in the third quarter.
Later in the third quarter, Hausbeck hit senior WR Peter Snyder for a 6-yard passing TD, but the extra point try failed as Nouvel opened its lead to 48-20 with 2:49 to play in the third quarter.
Alcona attempted a QB sneak on fourth down (and about the width of a piece of paper to go) at the Nouvel 40-yard line, when Stephenson broke free (as nobody on the Nouvel defense managed to wrap him up) for a 40-yard rushing TD, but the 2-point try failed as the Tiger's cut the NCC lead to 48-26 with 10:53 left in the fourth quarter.
The younger Kuligowski then busted loose for a 42-yard TD run, but the Nouvel extra point failed as the Panther's pulled ahead 54-26 with 9:21 left in the game, as coach Boyd called on his reserves to finish out the game.
Stephenson would round out the scoring for Alcona with another 40-yard TD run, as senior Kyle Haeger carried in the 2-point conversion to make it a 54-34 game with 46-seconds left.
Hausbeck led the Nouvel offense with 5 of the team's 8-touchdowns, completing 13 of 20 pass attempts for 233-passing yards, with 3 TD's through the air, while adding 7 carries for another 82 rushing yards and 2 TD's on the ground.
Josh Kuligowski finished with 146 rushing yards, along with 2 rushing TD's to lead the Panther ground attack, while older brother Justin Kuligowski added 1-rushing TD, along with 9-tackles and an interception on defense.
Snyder led all Nouvel receivers with 5 receptions for 119 yards and 1-TD reception, while also contributing 10-tackles on defense.
Buckingham caught 2 passes, both of which were for TD's, and senior WR Kenny Kujawa added 3 receptions for 32 yards, while senior Alex Wrobel paced the defense with 18 tackles, including 2.5 sacks and 3 tackles for loss.
Alcona completed just 1 pass for 5-yards, however, the Tiger's rushed for an impressive 414-yards, led by the Hutchison twins, with Jack Hutchison leading the way with 23-carries for 178-yards and 2-TD's, followed by twin brother Tim Hutchison who carried the ball 18 times for 118-yards, while Stephenson added 13 carries for 96-yards and 3-TD's.
Nouvel CC (12-0) advances to the MHSAA division-8 semi-final game next week where it will take on the winner of Iron River West Iron County (10-1) and Frankfort (8-2) who play in the other quarter final for a regional championship up in the U.P. at Iron River H.S. at 6:30 pm on Saturday evening.