MHSAA State ChampionshipIssue Date: November 30, 2016
Maroons Earn Silver in MHSAA D5 Title Game
On a day in which one would hope to play their best football game of the entire season, the Menominee Maroons were not so fortunate. In Saturday's Division 5 state football championship, Menominee uncharacteristically turned the ball over seven times, tied for a state final record. Although ultimately falling to Grand Rapids West Catholic 43-7, the Maroons finished second place in Michigan's Division 5, nothing to hang their "Our community, monetarily and emotionally, supports us tremendously. Our school system supports us and you can't do anything by yourself. Our infrastructure here has been fantastic, so we're really blessed to have that," said Coach Joe Noha after a welcome home ceremony Sunday evening that featured hundreds of fans, faculty and supporters. Coach Noha highlighted the community's efforts and support to help raise an astounding $20,000 for the football team, cheerleaders and band to travel to Ford Field.
As for the game, itself, the Falcons used big plays to take advantage of turnovers to keep the Maroons off their game. A fumble on the second play of the game was recovered by GRWC, who took over on the Menominee 43-yard line. They were only able to move the ball 13 yards in six plays, but Falcon kicker Liam Putz bombed a 47-yard field goal to give them a 3-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Menominee's offense looked to be clicking. The Maroons mounted an 18-play 65-yard drive that featured three fourth down conversions. Sam Larson highlighted the drive with a 12-yard run on fourth and one. But, on third and six from GRWC's 16-yard line, a bad snap resulted in a 21-yard loss. On fourth and 27, Ethan Mileski's pass was intercepted and the Falcons took over.
It took the Falcons just three plays to find the end zone. GRWC's Brett Meyers found space in the middle of the field, hauled in the pass from Gaetano Vallone, and was off to the races for a 91-yard touchdown reception. The Falcons quickly grabbed a 9-0 lead.
"After we fumbled on play two, we held them to a field goal which I was happy with. On the next series, we drove down to the 20 or so, and then again, we had a miscue. On the next play, they threw a touchdown and I thought those were two critical moments in the game." Noha added, "We were down 9-0, but we just couldn't get in a flow with our running or passing game."
Menominee fumbled the ball on the first play of the following drive, which was recovered again by the Falcons. On the very next snap, Vallone passed to Sam Neville for a 24-yard touchdown. In a matter of just 30 seconds, the Falcons went up 16-0.
The second quarter was more of the same, as Menominee was forced to punt after just five plays on offense. The Falcons took over and scored on their third play, another touchdown pass from Vallone to Neville, this one for 61-yards to extend the lead to 23-0.
Menominee's next three drives resulted in an interception, a punt and an interception. But, the Maroons defense held strong. Menominee's defense forced the Falcons into a punt of their own before Mileski stepped in front of a Vallone pass for the interception. On the very next play, Neville returned the favor by intercepting Mileski's pass. Vallone made the Maroons pay with a 26-yard strike to Aaron Hall for the teedee. This gave GRWC a 29-0 lead, that they took into the halftime break.
It was the Falcons' ball to begin the second half as they drove down the field before being halted by the Maroons. On fourth and fourteen, GRWC brought on Putz for his second field goal attempt, this one from 42 yards. Menominee blocked the field goal, Hunter Hass scooped up the loose ball and sprinted to the end zone for a 76-yard return touchdown. Shawn Sandahl's extra point cut the Falcon lead to 29-7.
GRWC responded with a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Dominic Stornant punched in the touchdown from five yards out, and Putz's extra point pushed the lead to 36-7.
The final Falcon touchdown came on the second play in the fourth quarter. Vallone found daylight on a run up the middle and was gone for a 37-yard trip to pay dirt. This touchdown extended the lead to 43-7, the score by which the Falcons won the matchup.
"It's big games, and we have to make plays, but unfortunately we just didn't make enough of them," Coach Noha said.
Mileski finished the game as the leading rusher for the Maroons with 76 yards on 18 attempts. Larson pitched in wish 56 yards on 14 carries. Mileski was also 10 of 21 for 70 yards passing, including four INTs. Senior Marcus McKenney hauled in five catches for 40 yards. "It's a bittersweet moment because on one hand, we got to play at Ford Field where teams dream of playing. On the other hand, I'll be hanging my cleats up. We gave everything on that field, and it's a memory that'll last a life time," said McKenney about his Maroon career.
Hunter Hass recorded seven tackles including five solo and two assists. Tanner Mathias and Jacob Rennie also added five tackles each. Mathias also spoke about the experience of play on the biggest stage, "The opportunity to play at Ford Field, to be able to playing on a field where NFL greats have played is indescribable. We made some memories at Ford Field and at the hotel, and just being able to play in that environment was unbelievable."
"Our seniors definitely led us and galvanized our group. With eighteen seniors, they continually led us in a positive fashion. They monitored the classroom, the locker room, the bus, the weight room, the practice field, and they did a really nice job doing that and I have to give them a lot of credit. Saying good bye to seniors, guys that have been in the program for four years, I know it's cliché, but it's extremely difficult. I tell them tradition never graduates, their eligibility may be up, but they're always going to be a Maroon." Coach Noha said of his seniors.
Lineman Brayden Wickstrom will remember his experience with the senior group. "The seniors I've played with, I've been playing with since the 7th grade and our goal the whole time was to go play at Ford Field. The experience of being a Maroon taught me how to never give up on anything and always keep moving forward." Wickstrom added, "The memories we walk away with are unreal. We came out as a better, stronger brotherhood because of the laughs and talks we've had."
Senior end Tanner Mathias also spoke the experience to play on the biggest stage, "The opportunity to play at Ford Field, to be able to play on a field where NFL greats have played is indescribable. We made some memories at Ford Field and at the hotel, and just being able to play in that environment was unbelievable."
Marcus McKenney also talked about his Maroon career, "It's a bittersweet moment because on one hand, we got to play at Ford Field where teams dream of playing. On the other hand, I'll be hanging my cleats up. We gave everything on that field, and it's a memory that'll last a life time."
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