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‘Survive and advance’ for North Muskegon after tough playoff opener vs. Union City

Top-ranked Norsemen beat Chargers 27-14, will face physical Lawton squad in next week’s district finals.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

NORTH MUSKEGON — Once the playoffs hit, style points are not credited.

It’s “survive and advance” this time of year, according to members of North Muskegon’s football team. That’s what the Norsemen did in a tough Division 7 first-round playoff game against a Union City squad that came ready to play.

North Muskegon defeated Union City, 27-14, on a comfortable Saturday afternoon at Fred Jacks Memorial Field.

North Muskegon (10-0), which finished tied atop the Associated Press Michigan Division 7 poll with perennial power Jackson Lumen Christi, advances to next week’s district final against a physical Lawton squad (9-1). The game date and site for the district final is yet to be determined, according to the North Muskegon athletic department.

Lawton, which was the Division 7 state runner-up two years ago, defeated Schoolcraft in a first-round matchup on Friday, 36-18.

Union City closes its season with a 6-4 record.

Here are more details and notables from the game:

  • North Muskegon wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Twenty seconds into the game, James Young hit a wide-open Alec Newville near the Norse sideline and Newville turned upfield with nothing but green grass ahead of him. Newville completed the 62-yard scoring play with a dash down the sideline. After Owen Booth’s PAT, North Muskegon led 7-0 before fans could get settled into their seats.
  • Union City answered on its very first drive. Riley Laird found a seam up the middle and dashed 42 yards for a TD. The PAT was either partially blocked or shanked and it sailed wide right, so North Muskegon held a 7-6 lead with 7:32 left in the first quarter.
  • North Muskegon responded soon after, when Young rolled right, stopped, and fired back left to a wide-open Cullen Bartos for a 21-yard TD pass. The Norse’s two-point conversion attempt failed, but they led 13-6 with 3:25 left in the first quarter.
  • The second quarter was mostly quiet, but North Muskegon extended its lead just before the halftime break. Tristan Thomas crashed into the end zone from 3 yards out. The two-point conversion pass failed, but the Norsemen led 19-6 with 32 seconds remaining in the half.
  • After a scoreless third quarter, North Muskegon all but put the game away with Thomas’ second TD run, this time from 2 yards. Young connected with Chuck Meyers for the two-point conversion pass and the Norsemen led 27-6 with 5:12 left.
  • Union City pulled a little closer on Landyn Crance’s 9-yard TD run and a two-point conversion pass from Elijah Payne to Aidan Decker, making it 27-14 with about 3 1/2 minutes left.
  • Union City attemped an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but North Muskegon recovered and went on to put the game away.
North Muskegon juniors Drew Bartos, left, and James Young pose for a portrait after their team’s 27-14 victory over Union City in a Division 7 playoff opener Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, at Fred Jacks Memorial Field in North Muskegon, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)
  • Young finished 13-of-22 passing for 202 yards with two TDs and one interception.
  • Thomas led the North Muskegon ground game with 55 yards on 10 carries.
  • Cullen Bartos added 37 yards on nine carries for the Norsemen.
  • TJ Byard paced North Muskegon’s receiving corps with 77 yards on four catches. He also recorded 10 tackles and an interception that essentially sealed the game.
  • Defensively, Chuck Meyers notched 16 tackles and forced a fumble for North Muskegon.
  • Henry Hussman made 10 stops for the Norsemen, while Drew Bartos had seven tackles. Cullen Bartos and Carter Muzzy made six stops apiece.

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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