By Greg Gielczyk
But after taking a 14-8 lead in the opening quarter, Manistee didn’t score again while Gladstone rolled up 28 unanswered points to send the Chippewas home with a 36-14 setback.
The game was played at Gladstone.
It was the first time the Chippewas, making their third straight appearance in the post-season, had ever played in a district final. They’d come in with high hopes and the momentum from a four-game winning streak.
But the Braves scored just before the end of the first half to gain a 22-14 lead at intermission and never relinquished it in notching its fourth win in a row.
“Certainly, the turning point was with under 2 minutes left in the first half when we had crossed the 50, tried to take a shot on a little bit of a trick play and it didn’t quite pan out,” Manistee head coach Troy Bytwork said. “It put us in second down, and it got to a point on fourth down when they got a sack on us. They ended up scoring right before half. It put us in a tough spot. It flipped the momentum.”
Manistee had opened the scoring when senior quarterback Jeff Huber pitched the ball to halfback Nick Hornkohl, who eluded a pair of Gladstone defenders to scamper into the end zone from 3 yards out.
But the Chippewas were stopped on the 2-point conversion attempt and led only 6-0.
Gladstone responded as quarterback Nate Young used his legs to outrun the Chippewas’ defense 8 yards into the end zone.
The Braves were successful on their 2-point conversion and took an 8-6 lead.
As they had all season, though, the Chippewas rallied after the Braves score and showed their resiliency and determination, with Huber finding Hornkohl in the clear for an 8-yard scoring strike. Hornkohl legged out the 2-point conversion and Manistee went back on top, 14-8.
It was the last time the Chippewas would find the end zone in the game.
Manistee’s defense rose up on the next Gladstone possession and forced the Braves to a three-and-out that put the ball back in the Chippewas’ hands.
Gladstone did pull even with the Chippewas, 14-14 on a 28-yard run and then punched in one more before halftime to take the lead for good, 22-14.
“Coming out of half, though, we’re still in good shape because we’re going to receive the kick,” said Bytwork. “But, we couldn’t get a drive going. We were within one score all the way until the 8-minute mark of the fourth quarter or something like that. We just didn’t get a drive to finish out in the second half.
“Their running back is legit,” Bytwork said. “He runs hard. He’s a physical runner, and he began to wear us a little bit. And they’re quarterback made some plays when he had to, especially on one fourth down and six. They made some plays and we did not make the necessary plays.”
Neither team scored in the third period, but the Braves scored twice in the fourth quarter, the last one coming with just 2:45 left in the contest.
Gladstone improved to 9-2 with its fourth straight win, and plays either Menominee or Negaunee, who play in the district final on Saturday. That regional contest is next weekend.
Manistee finished with a 7-4 record.