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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Maroons Move On!

There is no place like home!

Just ask the Menominee Maroons after wining their third straight home playoff game to advance along the MHSAA Division 5 post-season tournament trail.

Victim number three at Walton Blesch Field for the 11-1 Maroons was Clare, which was handed a 28-21 regional title loss Saturday afternoon.

Menominee will now advance to the state semifinals at the Superior Dome in Marquette on Saturday, November 17 taking on Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-3) at 1pm.

In the latest playoff victory, Maroon coach Joe Noha saw his troops turn a late interception by Devon Harris into the winning touchdown with 3:02 remaining.

“Our motto all year has been ‘think big and focus small’. The kids just seem to do the little things right like block and tackle to move on and win. Clare was a quality team that used a well-devised scheme and made calls at the line of scrimmage. We struggled at times but towards the end, our defense stood up when it mattered the most and made plays to get us the win,” Noha said.

The Maroons were once again sparked by the play of “Mr. Do-it-all” in Harris, who rushed 33 times for 186 yards and passed for another 101 yards.

Harris didn’t do it by himself. He had help and plenty of it.

Standing at just 5’9, receiver Bryan Hines came up with a number of big plays, including hauling in two touchdown passes and picking off a Clare pass.

“Like I said previously, Harris can beat you with his arm or legs. But in all honesty, none of our guys do it alone...get good blocking from the guys upfront that create space for him and the receivers catch the ball. Hines is a very good athlete that makes things happen on both sides of the ball. He has excellent body control and a nose for the football,” Noha added.

In a high scoring first quarter, the Maroons saw their defense give up a pair of touchdowns to trail 14-7 at the break.

After forcing the Maroons to punt on the opening possession, Clare moved 66 yards in 6 plays as workhorse Jordan Gross bolted 9 yards at the 7:42 mark. Logan Emery tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 lead. The Menominee defense saw plenty of Gross, who rambled for 224 yards on 27 carries.

Facing that early deficit, the Maroons needed 25 seconds to get even, driving 60 yards in two plays on runs by Harris. The first scamper netted 10 yards before the 160 pound junior tailback weaved his way through the Clare defense for 50 yards and the touchdown. Evan Pohlman tacked on the PAT for a 7-7 deadlock with 7:17 remaining in period one.

Clare regained the upper hand at 14-7 with 2:32 left in the opening quarter as James Simon scooted 9 yards to paydirt on his lone carry of the game.

While Clare dominated the first quarter, period two belonged to the Maroons by a 14-0 edge.

Menominee answered the second Clare score with an 8 play, 51 yard teedee drive capped by a 17 yard jaunt by James Brown. Harris hooked up with Brown for 16 yards to the 35 before six straight runs resulted in points. Harris shook free for 8 yards to the 17 before Brown fought his way into the end zone (11:23).

Clare put a big scare into the Maroon faithful on the ensuing possession with a 6 play/69 yard drive that ended on a fumble recovery by Harris in the end zone. Clare thought Gross made his way in for points, only to lose control of the ball with 8:41 to play in the half.

Starting at their own 20 following the touchback, Menominee slowly moved downfield and ran off 12 plays, highlighted by a 20 yard pass to Hines at the 30. The Maroons eventually moved to the 3 only to see a chop block penalty on a screen wipe out a 25 yard gain. Pushed back to the 26, three plays netted one yard as Menominee faced a fourth down at the 25.

Decision time. Coach Noha went with what worked last game and brought in kicker Pohlman to try a field goal. His 42 yard effort had the distance, but sailed just left of the upright to keep things deadlocked at 14-14.

With time ticking under two minutes left in the half, Hines came up an interception at midfield (1:27) to set up a go-ahead score. Harris peeled off 25 yards on first down before a pair of passes to Mike Kinsey (12 yards) and Brown moved the ball to the 13. Two plays later, Hines hauled in a 13 yard scoring pass from Harris for a 21-14 halftime edge.

Getting the ball to open the second half, Clare returned to its dominating ground attack with a 15 play, 88 yard scoring drive to knot the score at 21-21. Gross got the call 8 times for 26 yards before quarterback Zack Tyler hit Brock Swan on a 17 yard scoring strike (4:05).

Menominee threatened on the ensuing kickoff, only to see a 12 play march fizzle out at the Clare 43 following a critical holding penalty. Forced to punt, Justin Brilinski saw his boot roll into the end zone for a touchback.

With the clock ticking away, Clare slowly moved to its own 44 before a second down pass was picked off by Harris at the Maroon 44 and returned to midfield. The turnover would prove costly as Menominee set sail for the winning score.

Needing 13 plays to cover the distance, the Maroons watched Jared Rivard come up with a leaping 16 yard catch to the Clare 37 for a new set of downs. Menominee converted again on fourth down as Harris gained 3 yards to the 24. Continuing to head goalward, Harris pick up 6 yards to the 15 and Brown 3 to the 12. Two plays later the Maroons avoided disaster when Brown recovered a fumbled snap and a loss of 7 yards back to the 14 (3:30).

No problem as Harris went back to the air and hooked up with Hines, who made a leaping catch then stretched past the pylon for the touchdown. Pohlman’s kick gave the Maroons a 28-21 edge with 3:02 left.

Starting their final drive at the 27, Clare not only had to travel 73 yards to tie the score but had less than 3 minutes remaining on the clock. They never made it.

Three runs by Gross moved the ball to the 38 before a pair of passes gave Clare a first down at the Maroon 49. Continuing to nickel and dime their way downfield, Clare ran into trouble on third down when Zack Budzynski came off the edge with pressure before 5’4 Chris Briar sacked Tyler back to the 44. That brought on fourth down as Tyler saw his pass to Spencer Harrell fall incomplete.

Getting the ball back with 40 ticks left, Harris used a pair of kneel downs to run out the clock.

“This was a tough game and our kids really battled hard. Every play meant something and when the crowd really got going, our kids responded. It was a great win,” Noha added.

Looking ahead to the state semifinal foe, Grand Rapids West Catholic, Noha and company know they’ll have their hands full.

“Grand Rapids beat Menominee in the regional finals last year. They run the spread offense and throw the lateral game with bubble screens and hitches. Grand Rapids will present problems for us with their speed and skilled players, especially on the carpet at the dome. This is definitely a quality team we are going up against,” Noha concluded.

The winner of the semifinal clash will head to Ford Field and the state title game on Saturday, November 24.


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