By RON DEUTER
GOODMAN, Wis. - Northern Elite, with Joey Swanson running for nearly 200 yards, took advantage of a botched punt attempt to add a crucial late insurance touchdown and defeat Crandon 14-6 Saturday in Northern Lakes Conference football.
Ron Deuter/The Daily News Photo
All eyes are on Northern Elite quarterback Joey Swanson (center) as he muscles into the end zone during the second half of Saturday’s homecoming contest against Crandon in chilly Goodman, Wis.
"We had to battle adversity, mostly in the form of Crandon just being a really good football team," said Predators coach Ben Laarman, his team improving to 5-0 (3-0 NLC). "They have really good athletes, really strong tough players, and I'm just really proud of the way we battled. A lot of the guys are nicked up and playing through the pain, but nobody missed a play. They just played a really tough game and I'm really proud."
Crandon, fooling Northern Elite with a reverse on its second play from scrimmage, took a 6-0 lead on Morgan Krueger's 65-yard touchdown sprint. But the Predators defense prevented any additional points, twice picking off quarterback Kory Kincaid.
"We played outstanding defense," Laarman said. "They have a lot of weapons on that offense. We were really worried coming into this game. Besides getting fooled on that reverse early, they really held their own. Crandon moved the ball, got some good drives, but we tightened when we needed to and got some takeaways. Overall, we played really tough D."
The botched punt occurred late in the third quarter. Punting from deep in their own territory, Crandon's punter had to retreat to recover a high snap and was brought down inside the five. On the very next play, Swanson drove head-first through the line and was able to break the plane before being pulled down.
Swanson, totaling 191 yards on 31 carries, completed just four passes for 33 yards - all season lows.
"We didn't really see the matchups we wanted to try to go down the field," Laarman said. "We tried a couple times and they defended really well, so we just figured we'd just stick with our bread and butter and try to keep the ball on the ground."
The Predators, losing a fumble in the first half, didn't answer Crandon's early score until right before halftime. The Cardinals were driving for a second score and made it as far as the Predators 30 when Kincaid was picked off by Swanson. Swanson then drove the Predators down to the goal line before Jake Pedrotti took a direct snap and pushed through a hole in the line created by Nate Moll for a one-yard touchdown with 10 seconds to go before half.
"Both sides battled hard," Laarman said. "It was a great high school football game."
Crandon, after blocking a Northern Elite field goal attempt, had a final chance to drive and try to tie the game. The Cardinals had 2:27 and one timeout to operate with from their own 20. They made it across midfield, but a deep throw on fourth down fell incomplete to end the threat.
Krueger finished with 136 yards on 18 carries for Crandon. Patrick Moreau had Northern Elite's other interception.
The Predators play at Tri County (Plainfield, Wis.) Friday.
"Five and 0 feels great, it feels great," Laarman said. "We beat some tough competition to get here. But of course you have to be right back at it next week."
Crandon 6 0 0 0 - 6
Northern Elite 0 7 7 0 - 14
C - Morgan Krueger 65 run (run failed), 8:46.
NEP - Jake Pedrotti 1 run (Adam Parent kick), 0:10.
NEP - Joey Swanson 3 run (Parent kick), 2:17.
Total yards - Crandon 244 (223 run, 21 pass); Northern Elite 262 (229 run, 33 pass).
Rushing leaders - C: Krueger 18-136; NEP: Swanson 31-191.
Receiving leaders - C: Trevor Martin 1-21; NEP: Jake Pedrotti 4-33.
Passing - C: Kory Kincaid 1-12-21-0-2; NEP: Swanson 4-9-33-0-0.
Interceptions - NEP: Patrick Moreau, Swanson.
Tackles leaders - NEP: Nate Moll 16, Swanson 12, Domenic Spigarelli 10, Wyatt Aderman 8