• 34°

Wildcats hold off Vikings

Northwood-Kensett's Hayden Halbach, middle, and Mason Olson, right, force a fumble by Janesville's Noah Dodd Friday in a matchup between the top two teams in the 8-Man District 3 standings at Northwood. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Northwood-Kensett’s Hayden Halbach, middle, and Mason Olson, right, force a fumble by Janesville’s Noah Dodd Friday in a matchup between the top two teams in the 8-Man District 3 standings at Northwood. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

NORTHWOOD — In a battle for the top spot in the 8-Man District 3 standings, an early deficit was too deep for the Northwood-Kensett football team to climb back from.

Although the Vikings outscored Janesville 22-14 in the second half on Friday, the Wildcats built a 27-0 lead in the second quarter and hung on for a 48-28 win.

“Our kids really battled back, and I think Janesville knew they were in a pretty good football game,” said Northwood-Kensett coach Dave Capitani. “You just can’t get behind a team that’s got that much firepower. We’ll learn from it and try to get better for next week.”

Although the Vikings — a team that has beaten its opponents by an average score of 47-24 this season — haven’t lacked offensive explosiveness, neither have the Wildcats.

Janesville (6-0, 4-0 8-Man District 3) hasn’t scored fewer than 42 points in a game this season, and Northwood-Kensett (5-2, 3-1 8-Man District 3) tied the most points the Wildcats have allowed.

Coming into the game, Janesville was second in the district with 943 passing yards and had the district’s best touchdown to interception ratio: 15:2. Noah Dodd had the best quarterback rating, 300.9, of any player in the 8-Man class who completed at least 10 passes.

Dodd’s success continued against the Vikings as he completed 13 of 24 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

Northwood-Kensett’s Josh Einertson brought more than 1,000 yards of total offense into the game. He was third in the district with 592 passing yards and sixth with 557 rushing yards.

Einertson led the Vikings by completing 7 of 17 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns.

The first points of the game were scored on a 3-yard touchdown run by Janesville’s Nick Nelson with 1:28 left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Nelson found the end zone on a 71-yard punt return to give the Wildcats a 13-point advantage.

After two Dodd touchdown passes, the Vikings got on the board with a 59-yard pass from Einertson to Mason Olson that cut Northwood-Kensett’s deficit to three possessions, 27-6.

Janesville recaptured the momentum on their next possession as Dodd scored on a four-yard fourth-down run as time in the first half expired.

“That first half offensively we just couldn’t get going,” Capitani said. “I thought our defense played alright. We were just on defense too much, and they’re too good of a football team to let them have the ball that much.”

Janesville scored early in the second half, but from the 4-minute mark of the third quarter, Northwood-Kensett outscored the Wildcats 22-7.

Einertson broke away on a 26-yard touchdown run with 3:58 left in the third, and Keano Batton scored on a two-yard run with 10:23 left in regulation.

The Vikings’ final touchdown — a 22-yard pass from Einertson to Tom Fick — followed a kickoff return by Jalin Davis, a 115-pound 5-foot-4-inch senior, that set up the team to Janesville territory.

“He’s got a big heart,” Capitani said about Davis. “Not a real big kid, but he had a couple of real good kick returns for us today. That’s the great thing about football. You can find a place for a lot of kids to go in there and contribute.”

On the line, Northwood-Kensett was led by Hunter Julson and Matt Parcher. After senior guard Tom Yezek, a Second Team All-State selection as a junior, went down with a broken ankle in a 34-32 win over West Bend on Sept. 4, Capitani said he moved Julson from center to guard and Parcher took over at center.

“Chris has done a nice job in there for us,” he said. “Just a blue-collar kid that works his tail off every play. I couldn’t ask much more from a kid.”

The Vikings have two more regular-season games left and both are on the road. Northwood-Kensett will play at 7 p.m next Friday at Tripoli (4-3, 2-2 8-Man District 3) and at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 at Rockford (2-5, 1-3 8-Man District 3).