Class B No. 4-rated Northwest certainly didn’t play its best game of the year on Friday.
But the Vikings did just enough to get past Crete 34-27 and set up next week’s district championship showdown between 7-1 teams at Hastings.
“We did not play very well tonight,” Northwest coach Kevin Stein said. “We didn’t have the ball much in the second quarter and that killed us. We gave up some big plays and didn’t capitalize on some drives. Penalties (12 for 116 yards) were absolutely horrendous – holding penalties, just horrendous.
“A win’s a win, and I’m not going to take away from our guys. But I think if you ask any of them, we didn’t play very well tonight. Some of it is some of the stuff (Crete) is doing. Some of it was maybe us not being focused on Crete and looking forward to next week.”
A 21-yard touchdown from Rans Sanders to Riley Anderson and a 19-yard run by Ty Heaton helped the Vikings lead 14-0 early in the second quarter.
But Crete (2-6) tied it up in a span of nine seconds. Zach Fye’s touchdown passes of 14 yards to Jaxon Weyand and 44 yards to Zach Turner sandwiched a successful onside kick to pull the Cardinals even with 6:02 left in the first half.
Senior lineman Grady Griess said the Vikings didn’t have the right approach at that point of the game.
“I feel like we were taking the game not seriously enough,” he said. “We were locked in, but we weren’t necessarily ready to throw another punch. They threw those punches and we weren’t ready to fire back.
“There are a few miscommunications and a few things that are killing us that we’ve got to work on in practice next week.”
Sanders scored on a 6-yard run to give Northwest a 21-14 halftime lead, and Parker Janky’s 18-yard field goal made it a two-possession game in the third.
Northwest lost Sanders to an apparent ankle injury in that period, but it wasn’t serious.
“He got cleared and could have come back in that fourth quarter but Alex (Brandt) came in and did a nice job,” Stein said. “We just wanted to get out of the game and not play him.”
Brandt filled in nicely, connecting with Anderson on a 5-yard pass to give the Vikings a 31-14 cushion with 8:47 to go.
Nigel Bridger answered for Crete with a 1-yard run, but Janky easily converted a 44-yard field goal try with 2:25 remaining.
Fye connected with Turner on a 63-yard pass with 1:50 to go to bring Crete back to within a possession.
Northwest recovered the onside kick. On fourth-and-1 with 6.6 seconds left, Brandt went on a 22-yard run to close out the win.
“He’s heady,” Stein said. “The one big run he had for a first down, he actually checked out and made a heck of a play. He took care of the ball and threw it well. Besides one pass that he missed a wide-open long pass, he did a heck of a job.”
Griess said the defense had a better second half but still needs to keep working.
“We’re still not satisfied because we still gave up a touchdown,” he said. “We have really high standards on our defense, and we need to work harder in practices, definitely.”