Tough Ending To A Great Year
Menominee Denied State Title
By Grand Rapids 27-14; Ends
Season With Plush 13-1 Readout
Talk about a tough ending to a great season.
After chalking up 13 straight wins, the Menominee Maroons saw their hopes of a bringing home the state gold vanish in a 27-14 Division 5 championship game loss to talented Grand Rapids West Catholic Saturday afternoon at Ford Field in Detroit. The loss not only prevented the 13-1 Maroons from claiming the 4th state title in school history, but also marked the fourth straight year Grand Rapids has eliminated them from the playoffs. Two of those losses came in the state semifinals. Grand Rapids started the year 1-4 and won 9 straight games to capture its first state championship since 2010.
Grand Rapids was the better team Saturday and seem to have our number right now. They had us well-scouted and prevented us from getting to the edges like we did the week before in the semifinals. They gave us the off-tackle plays, but we had opportunities throughout the game and didnt get it done, Maroon coach Joe Noha said. Last week against Oakridge we were almost flawless in the first half, but we knew we were in for a battle today. The bottom line is Grand Rapids executed well. We knew what they were going to run, and they ran exactly what we prepared our kids to stop. But they just made the plays when that had to.
The Menominee offense did have its hands full trying to penetrate the stingy Grand Rapids defense, totaling 347 yards over 65 plays. The bread and butter ground attack, which had been averaging nearly 300 yards per game in the post-season, was limited to 189 yards on 43 rushes. A slim 4.4 average was far below the Maroon standards. James Brown paced Menominee with 18 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown, Justin Brilinski 19-71 and a score while the usually explosive Devon Harris was held to 10 yards on 3 carries.
Through the air Justin Brilinski connected on 11 of 21 tosses for 158 with Harris hauling in 10 passes for 149 yards.
Turnovers also hindered the Maroons, losing the ball three times, two miscues resulting in touchdowns for Grand Rapids West Catholic.
Our kids were ready to play and played hard, but we didnt have the same grit as we did the week before. You always want your team to peak at the right time, and for us, that might have been in the semifinals. We just didnt make the plays when we had to, Noha added. I am very proud of these young men and they brought a lot of pride to our school and community.
Menominee moved the ball early, but couldnt put any points on the scoreboard.
The Maroons ran into problems off the get-go and saw a 7 play opening drive end on a pass interception at the Grand Rapids 20. The Falcons couldnt capitalize as a 14 play drive fizzled when Travis Hoving missed a 36 yard field goal.
Getting the ball back, Menominee went to work and marched from their own 20 to the Grand Rapids 15 before running out of downs. Brilinski and Harris hooked up 3 times for 53 yards only to miss on a fourth down pass at the 15.
Grand Rapids would not be denied points on this possession, moving 85 yards in 10 plays and running 3:28 off the clock. Andy Corey broke off scampers of 12, 20 and 6 yards with the final carry ending up in points at the 8:00 mark of period two. Hoving booted the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Looking to answer, the Maroons took the ensuing kickoff and put the ball back on the turf as Harris fumbled after catching a 17 yard pass from Brilinski with Ben Serra recovering at the Maroon 37.
Instead of giving up another early score, the Menominee defense dug deep. Four plays gained 17 yards before Maroon linebacker Ryne Francour picked off a pass and rambled 26 yards to the 45.
The turnover not only bailed the Maroons out, but set up their first touchdown. Nine plays following the miscue, Menominee got even on the scoreboard as Brown blasted in from a yard out (2:18). Brown carried the ball five times in the drive, netting 16 yards while Brilinski added a 16 yard jaunt and a 19 yard pass to Harris. Evan Pohlmann split the uprights on the point after for a 7-7 halftime deadlock.
After forcing Grand Rapids to punt on its opening possession of period three, the Maroons took over on their own 24 and again marched deep into Grand Rapids territory. The closer the Maroons moved toward the goal line, the tougher the yards became. Disaster struck at the 29 and again it came on an interception as Brilinski saw his toss intended for Harris picked off by Andy Corey. The miscue ended an 11 play drive, featuring the running of Brown and Brilinski, that was highlighted by throws of 6 and 20 yards to Harris.
Here is where the game and momentum was about to change for good as the Falcons capitalized on this turnover to go up 14-7. Starting at its own 27, Grand Rapids drove 73 yards in 7 plays taking 2:23 off the clock. A pair of big runs by Lasavian Majewski (18 yards) and quarterback Travis Russell (21) preceded a trick play for a touchdown. Facing a fourth and 10 at the Menominee 30, Grand Rapids set up for a potential field goal attempt. It never happened as the Maroons were caught napping when kicker Hoving took the snap and fired a long touchdown pass to a wide open Bryce Witham with 3:26 left in the period.
The play not only stunned the Maroons but left them in arrears at 14-7.
It is unfortunate to get duped like that, Noha remarked. We are not going to cry foul as Grand Rapids did everything correct, started all the players between the number, then substituted with a number of players and one guy (Witham) standing near the sideline. I thought they were going to use a hard count or call timeout, but when the ball was snapped, I wondered why he is throwing the ball out of bounds. Our staff and kids didnt pick up on the play....we couldnt see the player still on the field as it was like a sea of white on their sidelines.
Down by a score, Menominee took the ensuing kickoff and sputtered, gaining 18 yards before punting. Grand Rapids took advantage of the stalled Maroon attack and moved 73 yards in 5 plays for another teedee. Russell played a huge role in the march, flipping a 48 yard pass to Drake Wooten then scampering 25 yards to paydirt just six seconds into the fourth quarter. Hoving tacked on his third extra point to extend the lead to 21-7.
Trying to stay within striking distance, Menominee went backwards on an 8 play drive. Two penalties along with a bad snap had the Maroons losing 4 yards before giving up the ball at their own 45.
We were a little dazed following that trick play. We were not consistent enough to move the ball like we needed to. Grand Rapids was very aggressive with our guys in the flat on passes and they could not get open. We usually score on those type of plays, but couldnt, Noha said.
Looking to land the knockout punch, Grand Rapids did and pushed the lead to 27-7 on the very next play. The 14 second drive saw Russell burn the Menominee secondary by hitting Wooten on a 45 yard scoring strike with 9:39 remaining. Hovings kick missed the mark as the Maroons faced a deficit of 20 points.
With their backs to the wall and the game slipping away, the Maroons responded with a 5 play 70 yard drive to get within 27-14. Brown got things rolling with an 11 yard run, then busted loose on a 42 yard third down jaunt to the 17. On the run, Brown was separated from the ball, with Harris recovering and gaining 14 more yards. Tack on a personal foul penalty and the Maroons were sitting at the one yard line. Brilinski took care of the final yard, powering his way into the end zone. Pohlmanns kick closed the gap to 27-14 with 8:49 remaining.
Unfortunately for the Maroons, that was as close as they would get. Grand Rapids got the ball two more times, running 6 plays for 26 yards and taking 3:19 off the clock before putting together a game-ending 7 play, 34 yard march to close out the final 3:23.
Its become a power struggle, Grand Rapids West Catholic coach Dan Rohn said. "We look forward to playing them. We dont like playing them, but we circle it when we get the opportunity. This was an opportunity to play them on the big stage.
Looking back Noha commented... we had great support the entire season from the kids, parents, school and community. Ford Field was a great host, but we couldnt get the job done.
In the two years that Noha has directed the football program, the Maroons continue to be remain a state force, compiling a plush 24-3 readout while making their way to the state semifinals in 2012 and finals in 2013.
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