After finishing the regular season with a 35-0 victory over Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart Academy for a perfect (9-0) season just 7 days ago, the No. 4 ranked Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central (10-0) football team put together a repeat performance with a 29-7 playoff victory over the Irish (who are moving to 8-man football next season) in the first round of the MHSAA division-8 playoff's at Boyd Field on the Nouvel campus tonight.
Sitting on a 29-0 lead late in the fourth quarter, Nouvel head coach Mike Boyd decided to give his starter's a rest (after holding the Mt. Pleasant offense scoreless for 7-consecutive quarter's) giving many freshman and sophomores, who were called up from the JV team, a chance to see some playoff action.
Mt. Pleasant took advantage of the young Panther defenders, punching the ball into the end zone when senior QB Carter Lowe kept it himself, scoring from the 3-yard line to avoid another shutout, as junior kicker Evan Chomchal kicked the extra point to make it a 29-7 game with 1:41 left in regulation.
The Panthers opened the scoring near the end of the first quarter when sophomore WR Sam Buckingham caught a pass from senior QB Tate Hausbeck that had deflected off of a Sacred Heart defender's finger tips and into Buckingham's arms, who then raced 48 yards, while eluding multiple tacklers for the opening touchdown, as junior place kicker Jacob Burr nailed the extra point for an early 7-0 NCC lead with 2:13 left in the first quarter.
Nouvel extended its lead in the second quarter when Hausbeck hit senior WR Kenny Kujawa with an 8-yard TD pass, as Burr's extra point kick gave Nouvel a 14-0 lead with 9:46 to play in the second quarter.
The Panther's continued to air it out in the second quarter when Hausbeck hit sophomore WR Zaiden Mitchell for a 12-yard TD pass, as Burr's kick was good for a 21-0 NCC lead with 3:49 left in the first half.
Nouvel senior RB Justin Kuligowski capped off the NCC scoring when he scampered 26 yards for a TD, while Kujawa (who is the holder on extra points) retrieved a bad snap and carried the ball into the end zone himself for the 2-point conversion and a 29-0 Panther lead with 6:41 left in the third quarter.
Hausbeck, who was 17 of 25 for 322 yards passing last week, continued to show off his passing skills, as well as showcase his running ability this week, completing 12 of 20 passes for 168-yards through the air, with 3-passing TD's, while carrying the ball 11 times for 90-rushing yards on the ground.
Kuligowski carried the ball 5 times for 50-rushing yards, including a 26-yard rushing TD, while his younger brother, junior Josh Kuligowski added 21-rushing yards and 1-catch for 7-yards.
Kujawa had 2-catches for 14-yards, including his 8-yard TD reception, along with his 2-point conversion run, while Buckingham's 48-yard TD reception and Mitchell's 12-yard TD reception rounded out the Nouvel scoring on offense.
Senior WR Isaiah Rosales caught 3 passes for 23-yards, and Junior WR Michael Ehlman had 2-catches for 11-yards, while senior Jonah Wright added 1-catch for 28-yards and senior Peter Snyder also caught 1-pass for 19-yards.
Nouvel will now prepare for a second round playoff visit from No. 8 Harbor Beach H.S., who defeated Ubly H.S. 30-22 in the other half of the district earlier tonight. The 9-1 Pirates will make the trip to Saginaw from the thumb next Friday for a 7 pm kickoff to battle Nouvel for a MHSAA division-8 district championship at Boyd Field.