GREENVILLE — The Northview Wildcats are in the drivers seat when it comes to playoff position. The Greenville Yellow Jackets have their work cut out for them.
The Yellow Jackets turned the ball over three times as the offense struggled in a 27-14 homecoming loss to O-K Bronze rival Northview on Friday night at Legacy Field.
The win leaves the Wildcats (5-1, 2-0) just one win away from the school’s first-ever playoff appearance. The Yellow Jackets (3-3, 1-1) will have to win their final three games — two of which are on the road — to make the postseason.
“It was a slow start. We dug ourselves a hole and it’s tough to come back from it,” Greenville coach Dave Moore said. “Despite the score I thought our defense did a great job. They were just on the field all night long.”
The Yellow Jackets were down 14-0 at halftime. Of their seven first half possessions, they punted five times, missed one field goal and fumbled once.
Trailing at halftime has been a common occurrence for Greenville.
“Offensively, we had a hard time getting going,” Moore said. “We had some receivers open early, but either didn’t hit them or didn’t catch it. Can’t do that against good teams and they are a good team.”
Northview coach Greg Ganfield said a key was matching the intensity of the Yellow Jackets.
“We felt coming in this was an awfully big game for Greenville. It’s homecoming and we are both playing for a conference championship,” Ganfield said. “I told the kids they needed to match the intensity of the Greenville kids. I was real pleased with the fact we did that.”
Northview scored one offensive touchdown in the first half. Devon Houston caught a 35-yard pass from Robbie Meadows for a score with 52 seconds left in the first quarter. They also scored on a 43-yard punt return by Chad Walton.
The only scoring in the third quarter came on 39 and 46 yard field goals by Ian Mikowski. He missed a 46-yard attempt in the first quarter.
“Our special teams have been pretty good all year long,” Ganfield said. “We spend a lot of time on our special teams.”
Trailing 20-0, the Yellow Jackets started moving the ball late in the third quarter. Operating out of the spread offense, quarterback Curtis Heppe hit seven receivers to finish 21-of-37 for 199 yards and one touchdown.
The touchdown, a 14-yard pass to Brennan Ramirez, put the Yellow Jackets on the board with 11:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.
After a defensive stop, the Yellow Jackets continued the comeback with an 88-yard drive, capped off by Carter Stephens with a one-yard run with 5:31 remaining.
“When you squander a lot of opportunities like we did in the first half, we knew Greenville was going to make a run,” Ganfield said. “They are a good football team. To be honest I thought we could have been up more at halftime. But when you let people hang around, you are going to pay. We were lucky to hold on.”
The Yellow Jackets defense needed one more stop, but just couldn’t do it. Two passes to tight end Blake Bockheim put the game out of reach. The second pass ended up as a 25-yard score with 2:46 left.
“Our defense played a great game,” Moore said. “We have all year long. We had some opportunities and didn’t convert.”
Greenville finished with just 57 yards rushing. Stephens had eight catches for 59 yards, Tyler Rasmussen four catches for 35 yards and Ramirez five catches for 32 yards.
Brandon Lawrence rushed for 81 yards on 23 carries. Meadows finished with 123 yards passing for Northview.
Greenville outgained the Wildcats 256 to 243 yards.
“We are down two starting running backs,” Moore said. “Sure it’s a factor. You ask other kids to step up and they have done a good job this year, but injuries and stepping up are part of the game.”
The Yellow Jackets travel to Grand Rapids West Catholic (3-3, 2-0) on Friday. They defeated Forest Hills Northern 36-28 on Friday night and will present a tough challenge for Greenville.
“We take it one game at a time. We will learn from this one and move on to the next one,” Moore said. “They are just like this (Northview).”