MSHAA Playoffs - Maroons Give No-Quarter To Invading Vikings Forces
There was no mercy for the Vikings of Grayling Saturday on the field of Walton-Blesch as the Maroons of Menominee took to the air for a 61-7 obliteration of the invading Viking forces. Though there was no mercy from the Maroons the Vikings found it on the game clock, which made its unrestricted descent toward zero before the first half could be written in the books. Menominee's first half push saw the score board as lopsided as it could be 47-0.
The stands were packed and those wearing maroon and white were treated to an aerial spectacle. With the arm of Ethan Mileski on target the Maroons decided to surprise the Vikings with an aerial bombardment, piling up 293 yards on a 11 of 13 performance Mileski helped to send the Vikings stumbling. It's definitely worth mentioning that one of those incompletions was off a spike that stopped the clock with seconds left in the first half.
Tightend Tanner Mathias was Mileski's favorite target Saturday afternoon, pulling in four passes for a whopping 114 yards, that's 28.5 yards per catch, not bad for a team that has made it mark through the turf tearing crew.
That's not to say the legs of the Maroon ground guys were not churning. Mileski found his way out of the pocket for 90 yards on 10 carries while Sam Larson blasted out another 71 on 12 carries.
"Larson is a consummate Maroon football player," said Menominee Head Coach Joe Noha. "He always wants the ball and does extremely well by the goal line."
But none of these gridiron feats would have been possible without a Menominee O-line that was ready to win almost every battle in the trenches.
Let's compare those numbers to those of the downstate boys from Grayling. On the ground Garyling's behemoth of a running back Justin Nicholas who trudged his way into the fray for 36 yards on 10 carries to lead the Vikings.
The previous week Grayling exposed their long range artillery against Kingsford where they passed 40 times for 380 yards. Against the Maroons they had to abandon their down field battery thanks to a Maroon defensive secondary that was ready to deflect and hungry for the intercept. After the final seconds had ticked off the Maroons held the Vikings' Cam Summers to a mere 82 yards on five of his 22 passes.
A team can't post those kinds of numbers in a level 2 playoff game without every cog turning together, and according to Coach Noha, the Maroon Machine was truly in sync.
"The theme with the guys this week has been to do your job," said Noha. "We wanted to figure out early if our front four could get pressure on Cam Summers and we were definitely able to which affected how we were able to dictate what happened early in the game."
The other essential cog was the defensive front that helped to apply pressure to the dangerous Viking pass attack. It wasn't long for this crucial game point to take center stage.
"McKenney shutdown Cody Dole today," said Noha. "I don't think he had a catch all day, last week Dole had 185 yards receiving."
On Grayling's game opening drive the Maroons slipped into the backfield and it was Jacob Rennie who set the tone for the rest of the contest. Rennie pulled down Grayling's Summers for a seven yard loss setting up a third and 17 attempt.
With the wind removed from their sails, the Vikings found themselves dead in the water on Menominee's first drive. Mathias was the man to deliver the games second staggering shot, breaking through the Viking's defensive hull on a 44 yard sprint to the end zone for the evening's first points.
After another great defensive stand the Maroons experienced a momentum hiccup, fumbling the ball off a snap, which was recovered by a Grayling defender. Thankfully the Maroons stifled that hiccup and got right back on track, shutting down the offense yet again.
There certainly wasn't a second miscue for the Maroons as their next possession ended with Larson powering his way across the goal line from five yards back. The score after the short run was 13-0, due to a missed extra point attempt.
Menominee has a treat in the kicking game and in during the game against Vikings it became ever more apparent. Shawn Sandahl more than did his part in the kickoff game where nearly everyone of his kick made it to the back of the end zone.
"We moved Shawn Sandahl up last year for the playoffs," said Noha of his bionic toed Maroon. "We kept him on JV this year because he is a threat there. But now that the post season is here, we have taken him back, he really is a weapon. It's nice when a team has to go 80 yards every time." said Noha.
The first turnover for Menominee came early in the second when Larson found his way in-between a Summer's pass which he brought out to Grayling's 20 yard line before being pulled down. He helped to make sure that turnover resulted in points a few plays later when he found a crease for another five yard blast to bring the Maroons to a 20-0 lead.
After stonewalling the Vikings the Maroons decided change the tempo a bit, turning to the arm of Mileski and the impenetrable pass defense of the O-line. After taking the snap Mileski looked as he might roll out on a keeper instead he doubled back and tossed a shovel pass to Jacob Rivard who was at midfield about a yard in front of the line of scrimmage. Rivard snatched the floater, turned up field and was off to the races, streaking 50 yards down field to the teedee.
A sack helped to sink the Vikings on their next raiding attempt as Mathias dragged down Summers to the ground.
But he wasn't done throwing haymakers yet. On the next drive Mileski turned toward his own side line where Mathias was waiting without a defender for 10 yards, a critical mistake on the Viking's part. After tucking away the pass Mathias turned toward daylight, which was peering through closing crease down the Menominee sideline. He had one man to beat, and he did, using a strong stiff arm to repel the would be tackler. After leaving the Viking in his dust Mathias went untouched to the end zone for the 55 yard touchdown reception.
Grayling's ensuing drive was met by a tenacious defensive stand that forced a turnover on downs thanks to a swatted pass on fourth down.
How many plays would it take for the Maroons to up the ante? Just one, as Mileski hit a wide open Marcus McKenney for a 44 yard teedee with time in the half quickly waning.
"We can run the ball," said Noha. "But if we have to throw we can, we like to be able to get to the line of scrimmage first but the beautiful weather was conducive for passing and our kids did a fantastic job catching. Ethan was on the money all game."
Menominee's Jacob Laatsch helped to put a quick end to the Viking's ensuing possession by recovering a loose ball while Hunter Hass pulled in a Mileski long range pass in the end zone for the teedee, giving Menominee the 47-0 first half lead.
So it was a mercy clock that would send the game to a rapid conclusion over the second half. Grayling came out with an onside kick attempt, which was nearly recovered after taking a squirrley bounce that nearly ended up in the hands of a Grayling player.
On Menominee's first possession of the half Mathias continued his track meet of a day by reeling in another perfect pass from Mileski, which he carried 38 yards for the score and the 54-0 lead.
A shutout was not to be as Summers finally found an open receiver to post his teams first score. That pass was brought down by Chris Hunter who went 44 yards down the Menominee sideline.
Sandahl, got another opportunity to add some points to the Maroon total, scoring on a 10 yard goal line buster in the fourth quarter.
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