Wildcats demolish No. 14 ranked Lakers

Jon Young

The NMU football team went into the game on Saturday, Oct. 13 winless in the GLIAC and facing the No. 14-ranked Grand Valley State University Lakers.

“This week our motto was believe,” said senior quarterback Cody Scepaniak. “We believed in each other and it turned out great for us.”

The ’Cats (1-5 GLIAC, 2-5 overall) came out firing on all cylinders as they snapped their four game losing streak with a 38-10 thrashing of Grand Valley. It was the first time since 2000 that NMU has defeated Grand Valley.

It was the first conference win for head coach Chris Ostrowsky and his staff. Ostrowsky said he could see the team’s growth after their loss to Tech on Saturday, Oct. 6 and this week it came together.

“It’s a big time win,” Ostrowsky said. “It’s one of those wins that solidifies us in terms of this tenor. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the players, their ability to believe in what we’ve done and work hard every day.”

The Wildcat defense forced a three-and-out during the Lakers first drive of the game and the offense capitalized on a seven-play, 56-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown from junior running back Casey Cotta.

The ’Cats picked up the momentum early and never looked back outscoring the Lakers in each quarter and dominating Grand Valley on both sides of the ball.

The ’Cats forced four interceptions, including two by sophomore free safety Derek Beltrame and held the GLIAC’s top ranked offense to 78 passing yards.

The NMU defense held Tech scoreless in the second half a week prior.

“It’s six great quarters now,” Ostrowsky said. “They went out just running at the football and believing in the scheme. All of those things, it takes time for kids to gel, for a team to understand. It’s obviously starting to turn the other way right now.”

The offense got a big boost from the foot of senior kicker Rockne Belmonte right before half. With 22 seconds left Ostrowsky rushed the kicking team on with the belief that the previous Wildcat reception had stayed inbounds.

The play in fact was ruled out but Belmonte and the kicking unit already had setup. The result was a 58-yard bomb that went through the uprights and gave Belmonte the school record for longest field goal, the previous record was 55 yards and had been in place since 1986.

“All week and the past two weeks, Coach O has given me chances during practice under pressure, 57, 59, 56 yards and I’ve been lucky enough to nail them all during practice,” Belmonte said. “I took my time back there and Cody (Scepaniak) put the ball down, and as soon as I hit it, it was gone. We were celebrating.”

On the offensive end, Scepaniak led the charge for the ’Cats connecting for 18-of-26 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. Scepaniak also scrambled for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Scepaniak, who started in place for injured redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Morley said the team’s unity was key in the win.

“I waited a long time for this week, I worked hard and believed in my teammates,” Scepaniak said. “The way our team played, it wasn’t me, it was our team. Our team just came together and did some amazing things today and I’m so proud.”

Cotta, who filled in for senior running back Prince Young, racked up 130 yards rushing and punched in two touchdowns.

Scepaniak hit six different receivers led by freshman Sterlin Darling’s three catches for 118 yards and sophomore Kelvin Smarwt’s four catches for 43 yards and one touchdown.

The ’Cats racked up 462 total yards of offense, while holding Grand Valley to 263 yards.

The ’Cats hit the road next weekend as they travel to Detroit to take on Wayne State University at noon, Saturday, Oct. 20.