By Greg Gielczyk
With less than 2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Boyne City scored a touchdown and opted to go for the 2-point conversion and the victory.
Manistee’s defense would have none of it and rose up to stop the attempt and escaped with a stunning 28-27 upset over the Ramblers.
It was the fourth straight win for the Chippewas, who improved to 7-3. The Ramblers (9-1) went out in a major disappointment for a team that expected to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Early on the Ramblers, ranked No. 6 in the state by the Associated Press, seemed poised to end the Chippewas’ run when they grabbed a 7-0 lead.
But the Chippewas showed their typical resiliency, punching in a touchdown later in the first half. Despite failing on the extra point, the Chippewas trailed just 7-6.
The Chippewas rocked the Ramblers for two more scores and mounted a shocking 20-7 lead late in the second quarter. However, Boyne City shaved the Manistee lead to 20-14 at the half.
While the Manistee defense held the explosive Ramblers offense in check throughout the third quarter, the Chippewas found the end zone one more time and took a 28-14 lead into the fourth period.
“After we scored that last touchdown, we felt pretty confident,” said Manistee head coach Troy Bytwork. “But, they made a run on us. It was a heck of a game. Our defense rose to the occasion stopping that two-point conversion.
“We really felt that the (West Michigan Conference Lakes Division) slate prepped us for this time of year. It forces you to play fast out of necessity.”
Boyne City was out of timeouts when it scored that final touchdown, and when the Chippewas recovered the ensuing onside kick, the game was over.
Isaiah Davis led the Chippewas with 14 carries for 102 yards. Nick Hornkohl added 54 on 16 attempts and scored a rushing touchdown. Kaden Kott rushed 11 times for 32 yards and ran in a pair of 2-point conversions.
Following their typical pattern, the Chippewas mounted a ball control attack and kept it on the ground with senior quarterback Jeff Huber going just 1-for-2 passing.
But, that one pass resulted in a 15-yard touchdown catch by Kannon Petzak. He finished with two catches for 26 yards.
Braydon Sorenson had 12 tackles to lead the defense, while Davis had nine stops, Carter Fredericks made seven tackles and had two tackles for loss, and Brian McNeil and Caius Johns each had seven tackles and one tackle for loss. Kott had an interception.
“We did some things tonight that were a little out of character from the last three weeks,” Bytwork said. “We had a couple penalties that were really uncharacteristic of our kids, who are a really disciplined group. We had a turnover that was a little bit uncharacteristic. We made some mistakes and still pulled it out. That goes a long way to building that level of confidence.”
Manistee moves on to next week’s district final, which will either be played in Gladstone or Manistee, depending on which team wins Saturday afternoon’s pre-district between Gladstone and Elk Rapids.