Although the race for the division title was over before the game started, the Wildcats are still chasing a possible playoff berth and another win, especially against a team with a good record, would certainly help.
Twice overcoming a deficit, including 16-10 at halftime, the Wildcats scored twice in the second half and stunned visiting Manistee with a thrilling 24-22 victory.
Defense stepped up big with less than two minutes left with the Mariners trying to answer the Wildcats’ last score.
Losing track of their numbers, the Mariners were caught for having 12 men on the field when you’re only permitted 11, and the resulting penalty sent tbem backward following a huge gain that would have had them knocking on the door.
The first half was a see-saw affair, with the Wildcats getting in the first blow for a 7-0 lead. Manistee quickly got back on the board when Kaden Kott raced 82 yards on the kickoff return and tacked on the 2-point conversion for an 8-7 edge.
Montague regained the lead, 10-8 with a 28-yard field goal but the Mariners again had the answer, a 59-yard run by Kaden Kott and they went up, 16-10 at the half.
But the Wildcats would mount a 24-16 lead with two touchdowns in the second half, and seemed to be in control until the Mariners scored for the last time on a 4-yard run by Nick Hornkohl.
A clutch defensive stop on the 2-point connversion attempt proved to be the game winner when the Mariners made a defensive stop on the Wildcats’ next possession and forced a punt.
Time, however, was against the Mariners and then they shot themselves in the foot too boot.
Adam Baird led the Wildcats with 201 yards rushing on 30 carries and three touchdowns while Mason Darke added 40 more on 14 attempts.
Defensive leaders for the Wildcats were Ryver Jarka with nine tackles, Tavian Caszatt with seven tackles, Talan Degen with five tackles and one tackle for loss and Fletcher Thommen with five tackles.
Braydon Sorenson paced the Mariners defense with 14 tackles with one tackle for loss, Caius Johns finished with 11 stops, one sack and one tackle for loss.
Kott led the Mariners in rushing with 79 yards on eight carries, followed by Hornkohl who gained 44 on 10 tries, Isaiah Davis finished with 40 on eight attempts and quarterback Dayvion Neal-Berry had 31 on eight keepers.
Montague improved its record to 4-4 overall and 3-2 in the division, where the Wildcats are tied with Manistee and Oakridge for second. The Wildcats end the regular season at Oakridge next Friday.
The Mariners fell to 6-2 on the season and 3-2 in the division, and host Fremont next Friday in the final game of the regular season.
Check out more photos and video courtesy of Leo Valdez.