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FREDERICKSBURG>> It had been billed as a de facto Section Three championship game.

And by the time Friday's showdown in Fredericksburg was over, you had wished a real title had been on the line.

Northern Lebanon edged Elco in a 44-41 homecoming thriller deserving of hardware, pushed ahead by Isaac Wengert's rushing touchdown with 1:49 remaining. The senior quarterback scored five times to hand the Vikings (7-0, 3-0 Section Three) a lead on their homecoming night, but it was sophomore Blaise Bressler who secured the victory by grabbing an interception of Jeff Martin with 0:57 to go.

Martin had captained a stunning second-half rally that resuscitated the Raiders (3-4, 3-1) into a lead via 27 unanswered points until Wengert's deciding score. Then, after driving into Northern Lebanon territory, Martin's final pass was let go under serious pressure and sole possession of first place in Section Three belonged to the reigning champs.

"I had never been so happy in my life," said Wengert of watching Bressler's pick. "We're just going to keep it rolling. We've been eating, sleeping, breathing 'back-to-back.' We're a runaway freight train. Every other team's just like a bug on a windshield."

The Vikings rolled to their 15th consecutive regular-season win behind more than 400 rushing yards and held an early two-possession lead when their speedy signal caller dashed 59 yards for a touchdown off an option play. While Martin would later answer on a 45-yard strike to Elco wideout Andrew Olson, the Raiders could do little to slow Wengert, who scored again to punctuate a 30-14 halftime lead.

"Their ground game was a lot to deal with," Elco coach Bob Miller said. "(Wengert) did a nice job of riding a lot tighter and deeper into the line than we'd seen before. It's tough."

Outside of Wengert, the biggest reason for Northern Lebanon's ground success was the Vikings' largest group, their offensive line, which regularly cleared holes for Wengert and running back Luke Funck (124 rushing yards). Their efforts paved the way for a 38-14 lead early in the third quarter, furnished by Wengert's fourth touchdown and a Funck two-point try.

"The line had huge for me on the speed options. I just hit the hole, ran as hard as I could and made a play out of it," Wengert said. "I couldn't do anything without these guys."

Senior lineman George Thompson, listed at 6-foot-3 and 301 pounds, had a simpler explanation.

"We got it done."

There was very little about Elco's comeback that proved simple, including a pair of Martin passing touchdowns, a fourth-down quarterback sneak, a rushing score from Tyler Horst (131 rushing yards) and a critical Northern Lebanon fumble at the Raiders' 5-yard line.

There was one theme, though, that stuck out to their coach.

"This team has a lot of character," Miller said. "Now we need to make sure we're staying focused. And with the heart we showed, I think we have it."

Witnessing said comeback from the opposite sideline, Wengert agreed.

"I saw resilience," the senior said of witnessing the Raiders' comeback. "They're a heck of a team. They've been battling just as hard as we have."

Martin eclipsed 6,000 passing yards for his career with his second-quarter touchdown pass to Olson.

Northern Lebanon senior lineman Dustin Motter raced back a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown to open the night's scoring.

Northern Lebanon 44, Elco 41

E771215—41
NL82286—44

First Quarter

NL — Motter 70-yard interception return (Wengert run)

E — Rolon 32-yard rush (Miller kick)

Second Quarter

NL — Wengert 1-yard run (Pass fail)

NL — Wengert 59-yard run (Funck run)

E — Martin 45-yard pass to Olson (Miller kick)

NL — Wengert 16-yard run (Funck run)

Third Quarter

NL — Wengert 41-yard run (Funck run)

E — Martin 23-yard pass to Stoops (Run fails)

E — Horst 5-yard rush (Kick fail)

Fourth Quarter

E — Martin 1-yard run (Miller kick)

E — Marin 34-yard pass to Olson. (Martin pass)

NL — Wengert 33-yard run (Run fails)

ENLFirst downs2021Rushes-yards32-16642-406Passing13-23-34-16-0Passing yards25839Total yards424445Punts1-260-0Fumbles-lost0-02-1Penalties-yards4-3513-82
Individual statistics

Rushing — E: Tyler Horst 23-131, Ryan Rolon 1-32, Andrew Olson 4-12, Travis Zimmerman 1-0, Jeff Martin 3-(-8). NL: Isaac Wengert 18-198, Luke Funck 20-142, Noah Smith 3-57 Corey Teasdale 1-9.

Passing — E: Martin 13-23-258-2. NL: Wengert 4-16-39-1.

Receiving — E: Olson 4-96, Luis Rolon 4-91, Horst 2-22, Dylan Stoops 1-16, Kory Brown 1-10. NL: Teasdale 1-13, Colton Herb 1-12, Michigan Daub 1-8, Funck 1-4.

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