By Greg Gielczyk
The Packers came into the West Michigan Conference Lakes Division game with nothing left to play for except pride, and didn’t salvage any as the Mariners pulled away from an 8-7 game with 32 unanswered points.
“It’s exactly the response we were looking for after last week,” Manistee coach Troy Bytwork said. “Even more so than the score, even more so than how we executed offensively or defensively, it was just about getting back to that physical brand of football that’s carried us so far – it carried us against Oakridge, it’s what carried us obviously against Ludington.
“We didn’t play that way two weeks ago, and so I wanted to see that response,” he said. “The response was there right from the onset. Right away we were able to establish that. Right away in the third quarter we were making plays in the backfield defensively, and really starting to fly around. I will say it over and over again, that’s what separates this group from the others that have enjoyed success as well.”
Manistee recovered a fumble at the Fremont 5-yard line with four minutes gone in the first quarter and the Mariners quickly capitalized on the turnover. Senior running back Nick Hornkohl bounded into the end zone on the very next play, and then also added the two-point conversion to give Manistee an 8-0 lead.
Fremont snuffed out the next Mariners’ scoring threat with an interception in the end zone and then drove down the field for its only touchdown of the game to close the gap to one, 8-7.
Hornkohl scored twice more, freshman quarterback Dayvion Neal-Berry threw a 10-yard pass to Landon Sowa for another, junior halfback Kaden Kott scored on a 1-yard run and senior fullback Isaiah Davis punched one in from a yard out.
“We’re playing quality defensive ball, and especially when the weather starts to turn, that’s what’s got to carry the day,” Bytwork said. “No matter who you get matched up with, from a defensive perspective getting stops, burying teams in bad field position is big. The corresponding portion of that is what you get offensively. It really showed again tonight.”
Hornkohl ended the night with 133 yards rushing on 20 carries. Kott ran for 92 yards on 12 attempts and Davis finished with 58 on six tries.
Manistee had 441 yards of total offense. Neal-Berry completed 4-of-5 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. Hornkohl had two receptions for 74 yards, and Sowa the one for the TD.
Caius Johns led the defense with six tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. Braydon Sorenson also had six stops, one tackle for loss and one sack, while McNeil made four tackles. Trevor Haag intercepted a pass, and Davis and Hornkohl each had a fumble recovery.