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Maroons Claim District Title

Despite turning the ball over 4 times, the Menominee Maroons (11-0) stayed alive in the Michigan football playoffs with a 47-14 district title win over visiting Grayling Saturday. Menominee coughed up the ball twice and watched a pair of Justin Brilinski passes get swiped by the Grayling defenders.

“Our kids have been resilient all year and they found a way to make things happen and get into the end zone.” Maroon coach Joe Noha. "The turnovers hurt and we have told the kids they can not do that against a good team. It is one of those things....have been practicing security drills and talked about better decision making with them.”

Menominee turned the ball over 3 times in the first half and still managed to build up a comfortable 26-0 spread at intermission.

Leading the playoff win was the backfield trio of Brilinski, James Brown and Devon Harris. Brilinski carried the ball 17 times for 116 yards and a touchdown while hitting on 4 of 9 passes for 98 yards and a score; Brown battered Grayling for 111 yards on 18 carries and 3 teedees; Harris added 82 yards on 5 rushes and a touchdown while snagging 2 passes for 82 yards and a score.

Defensively the Maroons limited Grayling to 258 total yards, 122 passing and 136 rushing while forcing 5 turnovers including interceptions by Shaun Sullivan, Harris and Forsberg.

A defensive stand followed by a bad snap on a punt allowed Menominee to stop Grayling’s opening drive and take over at the 43. Runs by Brown and Brilinski quickly moved the ball to the 25 before the Maroon top brass switched to the air and saw a Brilinski pass intended for Sullivan get picked off at the 16.

Grayling could only move the ball to the 34 over 8 plays, before punting. But this time the Maroons would not be denied as the 13 play, 66 yard march ended up in points. The opening 9 plays were runs, two of which were fumbled and recovered by the Maroons. Play number 10 was a 13 yard toss to Harris down to the 3 setting up a one yard blast by Brown. A bad snap on the extra point ruined the conversion as Menominee owned a 6-0 lead at the 1:27 mark.

The Maroons quickly built on that slim lead with three scores in period two. Facing a fourth and inches at the Grayling 29, Brown busted through for a touchdown at the 10:42 mark. Brilinski got the 4 play march rolling with a 18 yard gallop to the 38 while Harris gained 6 yards to the 29. A conversion pass from Brilinski to Sullivan was intercepted giving the Maroons a 12-0 edge.

Taking the ensuing kickoff, Grayling marched to the Menominee 26 before giving up the ball on downs. Quarterback Jake Swander, who went to the air 32 times in the game, watched a pass intended for Brandon Latusek sail out of bounds.

The defensive stop opened the door for an 8 play Menominee drive which fizzled out on a fumble by Harris on an inside reverse. Brilinski hit Sullivan for 11 yards to the 45 then watched 3 straight runs by Brown put the ball at the Grayling 47. Brilinski broke off a 17 yard jaunt to the 30 before Harris was separated from the ball with Tyler McClanahan recovering at the 27.

Grayling couldn’t capitalize on the miscue and gave the ball back to Menominee following a 10 play drive.

Starting at their own 33, the Maroons got back on the scoreboard three plays later for a 19-0 edge. After a first down incomplete pass, Brilinski gained two tough yards to the 30. Third down presented no problem as Harris leaped over a Grayling defender to grab an under thrown pass and race 70 yards to paydirt (2:09). Evan Pohlmann booted the extra point for that three score lead.,

The Maroons weren’t done scoring for the half but it took some work as the ball changed hands three times in a matter of 31 seconds. Two plays after the kickoff, Aeron Forsberg picked off a pass at the Grayling 36 with 1:50 left. Unfortunately the Maroons gave the ball right back when Brilinski saw his toss end up in the arms of Brandon Latusek (1:36). Three plays later Mason Kewley fell on a Grayling fumble at the 32.

Menominee managed to capitalize on the recovery with a 4 play scoring march. Brilinski gained 7 yards on first down then watched a second down pass to Harris in the end zone get flagged for interference. Setting up shop at the 12, Brilinski hooked up with Brown on a short 2 yard flip before racing into the end zone for the score. Pohlmann’s kick upped the Maroon lead to 26-0 with 0:36 left in the half.

A pass interception by Sullivan ruined the opening drive of the second half for Grayling. The 6 play scoring march ended as Harris motored 59 yards to the end at the 8:39 mark. Pohlmann’s kick gave the Maroons a commanding 33-0 lead.

The Menominee lead continued to grow following an interception by Harris at the Grayling 33. This time Brown capped the drive with a 5 yard scamper and Pohlmann’s boot gave the Maroons a 40-0 edge.

With the mercy clock ticking away, Grayling tallied the next two scores as Swander hooked up with Scott Tobin on a 39 yard strike (2:13) before Branch blasted in from a yard out in the fourth quarter.

Menominee’s final score came with 8:12 remaining as Forsberg raced in from 32 yards out.

The Maroons will continue their post-season homestand hosting Standish-Sterling Central (9-1) at 1pm Saturday in the regional finals.

“They have a Central Michigan recruit as the tight end and defensive end, who is also the coach's son. He changes the dynamics of the game. They feature a power running game and run the ball about 80% of the time. They are a very big team and our hope is to bring extra people into the box, minimize their surge and force them outside where we can tackle the runners,” Noha added. “Usually coaches talk about big teams, but Standish-Sterling is very big and we’ll have our hands full trying to match up along the line.”


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