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(NCE PHOTO/LISA KESSLER)

North Newton senior Cade Ehlinger looks for an open receiver in the Spartans’ win over North White.

MOROCCO — In their final home game, North Newton had to get over some unexpected loss of personnel to get past North White 26-15 Oct. 9.

The Spartans had to play without starting quarterback Austin Goddard and starting runningback Bryce Shedrow, as both had close contact with another student that tested positive for COVID-19.

With the win, North Newton improved to 4-4 overall and 4-0 in the Midwest Conference. With Frontier’s loss to West Central Friday night, the Spartans clinched the conference title outright with still one conference game remaining. It is the third consecutive conference title for the Spartans.

Not to be stopped the Spartans went deep into their roster and played with strong determination. Leading the Spartans at the quarterback position, senior Cade Ehlinger, who hasn’t played that position since 8th grade, led North Newton to the field.

It didn’t take long for the Spartan defense to let North White know who they were playing against. Quickly senior Dylan Olive introduced himself resulting in North White to turn the ball over on downs. North Newton pushed hard all the way to the 5-yard line but the Viking defense shut them down resulting ina turnover in downs.

At the end of the first quarter through heavy defensive plays by both teams, the score was 0-0.

Seven minutes into the second quarter, Ehlinger showed the arm the Spartans had kept quiet, a 38-yard throw into the hands of Dylan Taylor caught at the 5-yard line just shy of a Spartan touchdown. The next play a quarterback keeper resulted in a Spartan touchdown. An attempted PAT would be unsuccessful.

North White would attempt to travel down the field only to have freshman Lane Zander come out of nowhere to stun the crowd. In a veteran move by the freshman, Zander would pick off the Vikings quarterback with an amazing catch putting the Spartans on the 22-yard line. With 3:31 left to go in the quarter, Evan Gagnon would catch a 29-yard pass undefended from Ehlinger walking directly into the Viking end zone to score the second touchdown of the night. The Spartans would follow the touchdown with a completed 2 point conversion by Taylor.

The Spartans weren’t done in the first half. A 37-yard pass to Taylor allowed the Spartans to march down the field quickly. A second timeout set up Braydon Schoon for a 12-yard pass and another Spartan first down. With 2.1 seconds left on the play clock, Ehlinger put a 15-yard pass with a perfect spin into the hands of Taylor for the score. The Spartans left the field at halftime leading 20-0.

The North White offense finally broke through the Spartan defense halfway through the third quarter scoring their first touchdown of the night. The Spartans struggled for just a fraction when on a 21-yard return from the North White kickoff was fumbled with a North White recovery. The score at the end of the third quarter was 20-7.

North Newton regained its momentum in the final quarter as Dylan Olive chased the North White quarterback all over the field until running out of room at the sideline. The Viking quarterback in an attempt to save the play launches the ball into the air before getting sacked. The only problem was Taylor was there for the interception.

With 5 minutes left to go Ehlinger put the ball into the hands of Olive for another Spartan touchdown. The Vikings quickly retaliated with a touchdown of their own with 3:27 left to go in the game.

Ehlinger posted three touchdowns throughout the night: a QB keeper, a pass to Taylor, and another pass to Gagnon.

The night also belonged to Taylor, as he shined with two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, five catches with a touchdown, and a 2-point conversion.

North Newton travels to Tri-County next Friday, October 16th, and then will host the first game of sectionals at home on October 23rd against Wheeler High School.