HEBRON – Over the course of the past week, the Alden-Hebron football team watched a lot of tape in preparation for its second game of the season, a Northeastern Athletic Conference game against Luther North.
In the film room, the Giants’ defensive personnel paid special attention to the formations the Wildcats set up in during certain situations and it paid big dividends in Saturday’s 21-12 win.
“When we saw something out there, it was like we had seen it before,” junior linebacker Marshal Glenn said. “We really did our jobs well on defense because we were able to be aggressive.”
Glenn and the defense came up big all game long. The junior intercepted two of Wildcats freshman quarterback Joseph Hoffmann’s four passes on the day while the secondary gave little room for Hoffmann’s receivers to make a play on the other two balls.
Because of a lack of a passing game, the Wildcats (1-1, 1-1 NAC) stuck to their run game behind grinding running back Felix Loja who carried the ball 18 times for 146 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown run. Although the junior totaled a lot of yards on the ground, the Giants’ defense allowed most of those yards in the middle of the field and clamped down in the red zone and in fourth-down situations.
The Giants (2-0, 2-0 NAC) stopped Luther North on its first eight possessions, which spanned three quarters by means of turnover-on-downs (5), punt (2), an interception and a fumble recovery.
“Our defense really stepped up today,” coach John Lalor said. “Our guys were jumping routes and held their backs to minimal gains, except for a few times when they were able to break contain.”
On offense, the Giants had trouble finding a rhythm because of injuries and a stout Luther North front-four. Starting tailback Nate Peterson got hit hard in the first quarter on a sweep and his play was limited the rest of the game. Starting fullback Nick Beck shifted into the tailback spot.
“As a fullback, I’m used to being involved more in the passing game,” Beck said, “but with Nate a little banged up, I was involved more in the run game and it took a bit to find a rhythm.”
Beck got it going, however, and scored the first points of the game on a 12-yard run near the end of the first half. He finished with 49 yards on 22 touches.
Sophomore quarterback Colten Cashmore, a first-year starter, passed for 98 yards and two touchdowns to complement the running game, which kept the Wildcats’ defense off-balance just enough to open the field for several big plays, including a 67-yard strike to receiver Cody Nelson to answer a Luther North scoring drive.
“The key for him is to take a breath and slow things down in his head,” Lalor said of Cashmore. “He can be very effective when he takes things one step at a time.”
Luther North found the end zone for the first time on its first possession of the fourth quarter and decided to go for the 2-point conversion, which would have given them an 8-7 lead, but the Giants stuffed Loja on a dive play at the goal line.
The same situation happened again on the Wildcats’ next possession after Loja’s 52-yard score, and the Giants stopped the 2-point try again to preserve a 13-12 lead.
“In those goal-line situations where [the Wildcats] are going for two, the defense has to step up,” Glenn said. “Each time in the huddle we would look at each other and ask, ‘How much heart do you have?’ And it turns out that we have a lot.”