Novi — Emanuel Jackson wasn’t about to let Novi suffer a third straight heartbreaking loss Friday night, leading Novi to a 28-14 victory over Salem in a Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central Division game.
It was a much needed win for Novi (1-3, 1-1) which was coming off of consecutive tough losses to Waterford Kettering (28-26) and Livonia Stevenson (28-25).
Jackson, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior running back and Western Michigan commit, rushed for 76 yards and three TDs, busting loose for a 54-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter on third down to open up a 28-14 lead.
Salem (2-2, 1-1) was attempting to surpass its win total of a year ago, but instead dropped its third straight in the rivalry. Salem battled back from a 21-0 deficit, scoring 14 unanswered points near the end of the third quarter … or just before Jackson’s huge run.
“I got nervous and the team told me I had to score, that I was faster than everybody,” Jackson said. “The O-line did what they were supposed to do, I saw the opening in the middle and just took it in.”
Novi’s defense played well, forcing three turnovers, including two interceptions by 5-6, 155-pound senior defensive back Spencer Vankirk.
The Wildcats were outstanding on fourth downs for the majority of the game, coming up with big plays to stop two Salem first-half drives while also successful on two occasions offensively, leading to scores.
Still, it was Jackson’s run that his teammates were talking about.
“He always comes through in the clutch,” Vankirk said of Jackson. “It was a great run and we definitely needed it.”
“I felt our defense played great. We were ready for them. We needed this win and wanted this win so bad and we got it.”
Novi led 14-0 at halftime, limiting Salem to 49 total yards and stopping the Rocks on two fourth-down attempts.
Junior Alec Bageris completed 10-of-13 passes for 72 yards and a TD in the first half for Novi while their defense slowed down Salem senior running back Deston Langford — younger brother of former Michigan State star Jeremy Langford – holding him to 30 yards on 11 carries.
Langford finished with 80 yards on 21 carries. Bageris finished 13-for-20 for 132 yards.
In the first quarter, on fourth and 17 from the Novi 46, Salem faked a punt and Alex Nicholson — also the quarterback — tossed a pass to Freddie McGee which was knocked away by Jackson.
Then, early in the second quarter Novi made the most of its fourth-and-10 attempt from the Salem 25 when Traveon Maddox made a spectacular diving catch in the right corner of the end zone after Bageris’ pass was tipped near the end zone.
Novi’s defense again came up big, stopping Nicholson’s keeper on a fourth-and-1 at Salem’s 48 with 7:30 left in the half.
The Wildcats opened up a 14-0 cushion on Jackson’s 1-yard TD run with 42 seconds left in the half.
And, the Wildcats converted on their second fourth down to keep the drive alive when Bageris found Maddox on a crossing pattern over the middle for 10 yards to the Salem 15 on fourth-and-3. Aahmaud Jenkins broke loose for 14 yards to set up Jackson’s TD run.
Bageris continued to impress on Novi’s third scoring drive, faking a pass in the right flat, then going up top to Anthony D’annibale for a 42-yard gain to the Salem 5. Jackson scored on the next play for his second rushing TD to help open up a 21-0 lead with 5:22 left in the third.