By Fred Kelly of the Midland Daily News
Spencer Klukowski was nearly perfect through the air, and Northwood is perfect so far in the GLIAC football standings.
Klukowski, NU’s fifth-year senior quarterback from Rockford, was 12 of 14 passing for 191 yards and three touchdowns Saturday to lead the Timberwolves to their second straight thrilling victory, 38-37 over visiting Hillsdale.
The biggest of those 12 completions came with 1:07 left in the game, when Klukowski found fellow senior Antoine Carr in the left corner of the end zone to tie the game and set up Pat Sijan’s game-winning extra point — the seventh lead change of the game.
“It was a great up-and-down battle both ways. I’m very proud of our kids and our coaches. They did a great job today,” said Northwood coach Mike Sullivan, whose Timberwolves improve to 2-0 overall and in the league.
“ … It feels great to be 2-0,” Sullivan added with a big smile. “We’re going to celebrate that today, but we’re going to get back to work tomorrow.”
Hillsdale quarterback Troy Weatherhead, the GLIAC’s reigning Offensive Player of the Week, had another big game in leading the Chargers to 37 points for the third consecutive week.
Weatherhead finished 28 of 41 passing for 348 yards and two TDs.
But Weatherhead was overshadowed by Klukowski, who was as close to flawless through the air as a QB can get.
Klukowski, NU’s all-time leader in passing percentage, finished with only two incompletions — one on a dropped pass, and the other which he simply dumped off to avoid getting sacked for a big loss.
Northwood senior receiver Micheal Gillmore had another big game, catching four balls for 82 yards and two TDs.
“You’ve got to be two-dimensional. You’ve got to be balanced,” Sullivan said of an NU offense which has thrown the ball much more than usual through its first two games. “ … Micheal Gillmore came up with some big plays again. That’s a senior who’s just doing a tremendous job for us. We’re very excited about what he’s doing.”
In a game which went back-and-forth throughout, the Chargers and Timberwolves traded touchdowns on each of the first four possessions of the game, and NU eventually took a 21-15 lead into the break.
The Timberwolves then scored on the opening possession of the second half to extend to a 28-15 lead. But Hillsdale roared back, eventually taking a 37-31 lead on a 9-yard TD run by Weatherhead and a 2-point conversion with 6:14 to play.
Taking over at the NU 41, Klukowski marched the Timberwolves down the field, hitting Carr for a 19-yard gain down to the Chargers’ 12. Following a 1-yard loss on the next play, Klukowski lofted a high pass to Carr on a fade route, and Carr outjumped the Hillsdale defender to haul in the ball in the end zone.
“(That route) kind of puts the DB at a disadvantage, because he’s trying to guard man(-to-man), and he doesn’t see the ball in the air,” Carr noted. “Once the ball’s in the air, it’s who wants it more.
“It was a perfect ball,” Carr added. “Credit to Spencer and to the (offensive) line for giving him time. I couldn’t ask for a better ball than that.”
Hillsdale still had time to respond, taking over at its own 30 with 1:01 left. Bu on the first play from scrimmage, Kevin Berrien intercepted Weatherhead’s pass at midfield.
NU then ran the ball three straight times, forcing the Chargers to burn all of their timeouts. By the time Hillsdale got the ball back, only 32 seconds remained on the clock.
Following back-to-back completions from Weatherhead to Mike Blanchard, giving the Chargers the ball at midfield, NU’s Emmanuel Southern sacked Weatherhead as time expired.
“It’s a win. And just like last week, we saw character out there,” said Sullivan, whose Timberwolves edged Northern Michigan last week on Sijan’s 41-yard field goal with 14 seconds left. “These kids fight, and they believe.”
Dmitri Banks led NU’s ground attack with 74 yards on only four carries, while Hillsdale’s Vinnie Panizzi rushed for 105 yards and two TDs on 24 carries.
A.J. Kegg and Andre Holmes, the GLIAC’s top two receivers, caught 10 passes for 114 yards and eight passes for 115 yards, respectively. Both had a TD reception for Hillsdale.
Northwood heads to archrival Saginaw Valley State next Saturday at noon, while the Chargers (2-1, 1-1) host Indianapolis.
The Timberwolves haven’t started the season at 3-0 since 2006.
“It has been a while,” said Carr. “It feels real good to be 2-0. Now, we’ve got to be 3-0 and take it game by game. … Preparing for Saginaw Valley starts (Sunday)