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Big plays lead UNC past OTC

Big plays on offense, defense and special teams helped the United North Central football team spoil Ottertail Central's homecoming with a 40-36 victory last Friday night at Henning.

The Warriors used a 79-yard run, an 85-yard kickoff return, a 99-yard pass play and a goal-line stand to remain undefeated and take over sole possession of first place in the Prairie North Conference standings.

"It was a huge win for our program," said UNC head coach Jeremy Nordick. "We've spent the last four years working very hard to develop this young program and it is starting to pay off on Friday nights. OTC has a very tough and talented football team, and for us to beat them on their turf for homecoming is something that I will never forget. They have a tremendous coach and a great tradition. We are ecstatic to come out of there with a win."

OTC jumped out to a 13-0 lead when Shane Winkler returned an interception 23 yards on the first play from scrimmage and Tyler Olson capped off a four-play, 83-yard drive with a 4-yard TD run Winkler's 51-yard run was the key play in that drive.

Tom Gruchow provided the Warriors' first big play of the night by breaking loose for a 79-yard TD run on the next play from scrimmage.

After forcing the Bulldogs to punt, UNC marched 97 yards in 18 plays to take the lead. Two 15-yard penalties on OTC aided the scoring drive, which ended on a 3-yard pass from Kasey Tyge to Luke Hendrickson.

UNC claimed a 21-13 lead on its next series as Tyge's 27-yard scoring pass to Taylor Pederson capped a four-play, 46-yard drive.

The Bulldogs reclaimed the lead at the half when Winkler scored on a 40-yard run to end a six-play, 60-yard drive and Austin Skibness kicked a 23-yard field goal after OTC recovered a fumble. Those two scores gave the Bulldogs a 22-21 lead at the intermission.

An interception by Ethan Huttonen at the OTC 28-yard line set up a 15-yard TD run by Gruchow as the Warriors took a 27-22 lead to open the second half.

OTC responded with two scoring drives to retake the lead. Winkler's 10-yard TD run capped a 13-play, 70-yard drive and Olson's 3-yard TD run capped a seven-play, 40-yard drive. Winkler, who rushed for 215 yards in the game, ran in the conversion to give OTC a 36-27 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Hendrickson broke free for an 85-yard TD as the Warriors trailed 36-33

The Bulldogs responded with another scoring drive, but UNC's defense held at the 1 and the Warriors took over with 3:05 to play.

On the next play, Tyge hit Alex Brockpahler on a 99-yard scoring route for the game-winner.

Gruchow led the Warriors' running attack with 161 yards on 19 carries. Tyge completed 8 of 11 passes for 190 yards with Brockpahler catching four passes for 139 yards.

Defensively, Hendrickson led the way with 12 solo tackles. John Clark and Brockpahler had six solo tackles each as the Warriors improved to 3-0 in the conference and 3-2 overall. OTC fell to 1-1 in the conference and 2-3 overall.

"There were many keys to the win, but I think our resiliency was the main reason," said Nordick. "There were many moments that we had our backs to the wall and kept fighting back and making big plays. I'm so proud of the guys and how hard they played for four full quarters."