By RON DEUTER
FELCH - Having not played from behind all season, North Dickinson head coach Joe Reddinger wondered how his team might respond to adversity.
Theresa Peterson/The Daily News Photo
North Dickinson Coach Joe Reddinger, right, accepts congratulations from athletic director Mike Roell after Friday’s Division 8 district title.
The answer is with an MHSAA Division 8 district trophy.
The unbeaten Nordics, playing catch up most of the first half, tied L'Anse late in the first half and then ran for five more unanswered touchdowns to pull away 61-30 Friday night at James D. Priestap Memorial Field.
The Nordics (10-0) will host St. Ignace (11-0) Friday at 6 p.m. in a regional title game. The Saints downed Stephenson 38-20 in their district final.
"I thought we answered the bell pretty good," Reddinger said. "It wasn't exactly a standing eight count but we hit the canvas once and we got up and answered the bell."
A fumble on the Nordics first possession allowed L'Anse to cash in with the game's first points. Cody Goldsworthy ran for a 22-yard tally for the first of his three rushing scores in the game.
North Dickinson answered with Dominic Christian, the game's leading rusher with 193 yards on 16 carries, scoring on 24-yard burst.
And the first-half track meet was on.
L'Anse finding more success in the air than the ground, used two long completions to Jimmy Veker, a two-yard Goldsworthy plunge into the endzone and a Jacob Ostermeyer two-point pass to Veker to take a 16-6 first-quarter lead.
Ostermeyer, completing his first five pass in a row, threw for 203 yards (all but nine coming in the first half) and found Veker seven times for 138 yards.
"We didn't have an answer at first," Reddinger said. "We had to make some big-time adjustments, and (defensive coordinator) Chris (Mattson) did a great job at halftime of changing things around."
L'Anse's 10-point first-quarter lead lasted one play.
Christian took the Nordics' very next play from scrimmage straight up the middle for a 65-yard touchdown.
The Purple Hornets struck again early in the second quarter, with Ostermeyer finding Veker again on a fourth down play for an 11-yard score. The two-point try failed keeping it an eight-point game.
L'Anse recovered an on-side kick following the score, but the Nordics responded with their first defensive stop of the game.
After taking over at their own 37, the Nordics ran a solid drive and scored with a seven-yard rush by Tim Hruska, who totaled 114 yards on 13 tries in the game.
Then it was the Nordics turn to recover a kickoff, as neither team was interested giving the other team the ball back.
The short field led to more Nordics points as Ken Pekarek pushed the pile from the one-yard line, and with Hruska's two-point run, the Nordics had their first lead with 4:40 to play in the half.
"We had some troubles defensively," Reddinger said. "But there was never a thought of packing it in, so that was a good thing."
Another Nordic defensive stop on the next series led to a punt, and with 2:42 to play in the half, North Dickinson went 97-yards for another score. Hruska capped the drive by busting loose for a 23-yard run with 45 seconds to play.
L'Anse got a kick return to midfield by Brandon Kemppainen and Ostermeyer and Veker quickly worked down inside the 10, but the Purple Hornets were called for a false start from the four trying to beat the game clock, and the half ended empty for L'Anse.
"We came out and they slowed our running game down right away, so we went to the air," L'Anse coach Mark Leaf said. "They had a heck of a time trying to defend our passing game, and I think we kind of caught them off guard a little bit.
"Boy we had it there for a while but we couldn't get any stops on defense . That was the key, They controlled the line of scrimmage."
The Nordics, with its defense stiffening in the second half, added rushing touchdowns from Schultz (six yards), Christian (36 yards) and Schultz again (one yard) to put the game away.
Schultz finished with 87 yards on 13 attempts.
Ostermeyer was held to 1-of-8 passing in the second half, getting picked off once on a pass tipped by Brady Mashak and caught by Cody Berg.
"It feels really good," Berg said of winning the district. "It's great to get back to a regional game."
L'anse's final touchdown came when Goldsworthy sprinted 80 yards in the game's waning moments, giving the back 129 yards on 13 tries.
"Boy they are good," Leaf said of the Nordics. "Hats off to them. We wish them the best of luck. They really took it us up front. They've got a nice team.
"I'm very proud of our kids. We exceeded a lot of expectations. For us to have the season we did and win a playoff game against Forest Park, it's been a great season. The L'Anse football program is on the upswing."
Jonas Christian led the Nordics with 13 tackles. Dylan Dario and Mashak added nine more each. Dario also had a sack and fumble recovery.
Nordics totaled 467 yards of offense while setting a season high in points in the win.
"We have a great line, well disciplined," Pekarek said. "Our backs are awesome. We've got good speed, power.
"it feels great to win district and go to a regional. We've been looking forward to this season for a long time. We handled adversity well tonight. It was nice to see that."
L'Anse 16608 - 30
North Dickinson 1424167 - 61
L - Cody Goldsworthy 22 run (Jimmy Veker pass from jacob Ostermeyer), 8:27.
ND - Dominic Christian 24 run (pass failed), 5:59.
L - Goldsworthy 2 run (Veker pass from Ostermeyer), 2:21.
ND - Christian 65 run (Tim Hruska run), 2:07.
L - Veker 11 pass from Ostermeyer (pass failed), 11:50.
ND - Hruska 7 run (Matt Schultz run), 5:58.
ND - Ken Pekarek 1 run (Hruska run), 4:04.
ND - Hruska 23 run (Christian run), 0:45.
ND - Schultz 6 run (Pekarek run), 7:20.
ND - Christian 36 run (Schultz run), 1:57.
ND - Schultz 1 run (Logan O'Neil kick), 10:29.
L - Goldsworthy 80 run (Brandon Kemppainen run), 1:49.
Total yards - L'Anse 353 (150 run, 203 pass); North Dickinson 467 (450 run, 17 pass).
Rushing leaders - L: Goldsworthy 13-129; ND: Christian 16-193, Hruska 13-114, Schultz 13-87.
Receiving leaders - L: Veker 7-138, Jeffrey Roth 2-39; ND: Christian 1-17.
Passing - L: Ostermeyer 13-25-203-1-1; Pekarek 1-3-17-0-0.
Interceptions - ND: Cody Berg.
Sacks - ND: Dylan Dario/Travis Wischmeier.
First downs - L: 12; ND: 18.
Penalties - L: 7-75; ND: 3-27.