MSHAA Semifinal - Maroons To Face Grand Rapids West In State FinalIssue Date: November 22, 2016
The Menominee Maroons traveled north through winds and snow to face off with the Frankenmuth Eagles on C.V. Money Field of Northern Michigan University. After four quarters of competitive play the Maroons had earned a trip to the State Championship by way of a 23-20 margin.
The win gives the Maroons a place at the Michigan State Football Championship where they will face their post-season nemesis Grand Rapids West Catholic, who ended multiple Menominee post season pushes. The game will take place on Ford Field in Detroit on Saturday Nov. 26th at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
Overcoming adversity was the name of the game for the Maroons, who came back from turnovers and a fourth quarter deficit to win by three.
"We obviously had some important turnovers in key spots," said Menominee Head Coach Joe Noha. "It's a difficult thing to overcome but that's just part of the game."
Those three points were made possible by an outstanding second quarter field goal by Maroon Sophomore Shawn Sandahl, whose kick stayed true from 37 yards back.
"I wasn't planning on kicking any field goals today," said Noha. "But that one field goal was the margin of victory, Sandahl really came up big, I'm very happy for him."
Offensively the Maroons approached the Eagles with a balanced attack rushing for 230 yards and passing for another 184. Sam Larsen was the evening's workhorse in the backfield adding up a game leading 130 yards on 29 carries. Ethan Mileski chipped in 74 on 22 carries while passing for those 184 yards on an 8 of 14 day.
Menominee came out of the gates strong and looked as if they were going to post some early game points. Mileski opened the game with a pass to Marcus McKenney for a four yard gain. Two plays later he hit an open Hunter Hass who cut across midfield for a 32 yard gain. Larsen helped to move the Maroons closer on a couple hard hitting runs. But an interception on the 10 yard line shut Menominee's opening drive down.
That was the first of multiple turnovers for both teams, but it wasn't necessarily an early game breaker, thanks to some tough defense by the guys from Menominee who forced a quick three and out. Mileski came up with the third and five stop helping to force the Eagles to punt.
On the ensuing Menominee drive the Maroons got the wheels turning, working their way to a first down thanks to runs by McKenney, Mileski and Larsen. But an incomplete pass a few plays later put the Maroons in a punting situation.
A muffed punt by Frankenmuth left a loose ball on the field, which Maroon Tanner Mathias was quick to cover, giving his team the ball back on the nine yard line of the Eagles.
With momentum back on their side the Maroons were quick to capitalize as Larsen broke free on an 11 yard end zone visit.
After the successful extra point kick by Sandahl the Maroons took the initiate 7-0. Sandahl denied the Eagles any chance at a return with a booming kick that found its way into the end zone for a touchback.
After forcing another three and out the Maroons eagerly awaited the punt. But a fumble on the return found its way into the hands of an Eagle defender giving Frankenmuth a second chance on the 38 yard line of Menominee.
Menominee's defense brought the Eagles to a fourth and eight attempt but a perfect pass from the Eagles Jared Davis found its way into the hands of Grant Bronner for the 22 yard teedee. After the extra point kick the game was knotted up at 7-7.
Menominee upped their lead in the following possession but not before they had ground their way into the red zone. On the second play of the 11 play drive Mileski connected with McKenney for a 12 yard gain.Facing third and three on the seven yard line of Frankenmuth ,Mileski skipped his way through a tackle to get the first down.
But a fumble on a snap set the Maroons back with a third and goal on the 20 yard line. After an incomplete pass the Maroons were looking at a fourth and 20 situation. It was at this point that Coach Noha turned to his young kicker who took the field, staring down the barrel of a long 37 yard field goal.
The kick flew long and kept true on its course, as the refs raised their hands to signal a successful kick, giving the Maroons the 10-7 lead.
A defensive stand on the 50 yard line was highlighted by a Larsen sack which helped to bring about a Frankenmuth punt.
Menominee was quick to score on their next drive as Mileski connected with McKenney who raced to the 66 yard teedee giving Menominee the 16-7 lead.
For the rest of the second quarter Frankenmuth ripped the momentum back to their side, narrowing the lead to three before the intermission with a 12 yard pass from Davis to Luke Scharrer to bring them within two of the lead, 16-14.
After the intermission Larsen helped to reestablish the tone, sacking the Eagles Davis for a one yard loss. Two plays the Eagles punt was back on the field.
After fielding the punt, Menominee trudged their way across the field on 13 plays before losing possession off a fumble.
Frankenmuth responded with the lead taking touchdown nine plays later when Kris Roche broke loose on an 11 yard end zone scamper.
"Towards the end they started to run some weak side trap," said Noha. "We moved some guys into the gap and it took care of it well."
The Maroons plugged out 13 plays on their next drive, which was capped off by one yard goal line breaking by Larsen giving the Maroons the 23-20 lead.
Menominee's Mathias and Jason Janquardt came up big for the Maroons during Frankenmuth's next possession, Mathias got in the way of the option run forcing the ball out while Janquardt grabbed the loose ball to give the Maroons possession on their own 37 yard line.
After a couple of first down the Maroons took a knee and began the celebration.
"Our seniors did not want this season to come to an end," said Noha. "They implored the rest of the team to get the job done. Got to give them credit. They got themselves into the final game. We have been to the finals before, as coaches, but it's new for the guys," said Noha.
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