Maroon defense plunders Pirates
Interceptions, sacks turn the tide
Sunday, September 15, 2013 7:00 PM
GAYLORD, Mich. - A raging Menominee defense unloaded a sack full of misery on Harbor Beach in a clash of state-ranked powers Saturday.
The Maroons sacked quarterback Eli Kraft eight times and pounded the Pirates for losses 11 times in a 40-21 win over the defending Division 8 state champions.
"All 11 guys (on defense) made plays," said coach Joe Noha. "Harbor Beach is the best skill group we've played. Kraft seemed to roll right and left all day and the kids chased him all day."
A blocked punt and a 50-yard interception return to the house by James Brown helped Menominee zoom out to a 19-0 lead on just nine offensive plays.
When the Pirates sliced the lead to 19-14 late in the first half, the defense came through again with a tide-turning play.
One play after Colin Cook swiped a pass at the Maroon 42, Justin Brilinski picked off an Eli Kraft pass and returned it to the 10. After a procedure penalty, Devon Harris danced away from four defenders on a 15-yard touchdown run and Evan Pohlmann added the kick to give Menominee a 26-14 halftime lead.
"That was a big game-changer," Noha said of Brilinski's pick. "We made big plays at the right time. Coach (Dave) Mathieu and (Drew) Buyarski were very pleased with their effort."
After stuffing a Pirates' fourth down threat at the Maroon 28 to open the second half, Menominee ground down the Pirates with a 19-play drive. An incomplete pass on fourth and 5 at the 7 ended the clocking-eating march, but Noha felt it was a telling point in the game.
"That was huge. We worked the clock and I think that wore them down."
Harris slipped through Harbor Beach for gains of 14 and 16 yards early in the fourth quarter and Brown rammed in from the 2 to boost the lead to 33-14.
Kraft sprinted free for a 26-yard gain and fired a 26-yard pass to Josh Schelke to set up Kraft's 1-yard scoring run with 3:47 left in the game.
"You don't contain Kraft and their weapons," Noha explained. "They always find a way to fight back, but we have a refuse to lose attitude that really paid off."
Kraft swiped a Maroon pass on the next play, but after a 12-yard pass to the Menominee 37, the secondary thwarted four straight passes by Kraft.
Brilinski put a spike in the win with a 55-yard scoring sprint on the next play.
Austin Vorachek's return of the opening kick to the Harbor Beach 36 set up the Maroons' first touchdown. Devon Barley pierced the Pirates for a 17-yard run, snared a 7-yard pass from Brilinski and caught a 3-yard scoring spiral from Brilinski with 9:18 left in the first quarter.
The Maroons blocked a punt on the Pirates' first series and took over at the Harbor Beach 12. Four plays later Brown busted in from the 1 to push the lead to 13-0 with 5:07 left in the opening quarter.
The Pirates barely had time to catch their breath before Brown jumped a screen pass and sprinted down the sideline for his pick six with 4:46 left in the first quarter.
"That was a great play by James Brown," said Noha. "That was huge."
A 35-yard strike from Kraft to Justin Seltz set up Kraft's 21-yard TD pass to Schelke with 2:51 still remaining in the first quarter.
Harbor Beach put together a 13-play drive to pull within 19-14 with 42 seconds left in the first quarter. After being dumped for a 7-yard loss, Kraft whistled a 15-yard pass to Schelke inside the 1. Kraft slipped in from the there on the next play.
Unofficially, the Maroons (3-0) rushed for 227 yards. Harris, who saw playing time at wingback, tailback and receiver, racked up 94 yards on 11 carries in his season debut and Brilinski gained 84 yards on 13 carries.
Kraft completed 15 of 25 passes for 185 yards and rushed for 74 yards on 27 carries. Schelke speared 11 passes for 136 yards.
"I think it was a lack of awareness," Noha said of Schelke's big day. "You can't put two guys on him or that will open someone else up. He just made plays."
Menominee 40, Harbor Beach 21
Harbor Beach 7 7 0 7 - 21
Menominee 19 7 0 14 - 40
M - Devon Barley 3 pass from Justin Brilinski. Evan Pohlmann kick
M - James Brown 1 run. Kick failed
M - Brown 50-yard interception return.
HB - Josh Schelke 21 pass from Eli Kraft. Nick Hesseling kick
HB - Kraft 1 run. Hesseling kick
M - Devon Harris 15 run. Pohlmann kick
M - Brown 2 run. Pohlmann kick
HB - Kraft 1 run. Hesseling kick
M - Justin Brilinski 55 run. Pohlmann kick
RUSHING: Menominee 227 yard (Devon Harris 11094; Justin Brilinski 13-84; James Brown 12-41) Harbor Beach 98 yards (Eli Kraft 27-74; Josh Schelke 6-9)
PASSING: Menominee (Brilinski 5-9-20; Harris 4-5-40) Harbor Beach (Kraft 15-25-185)
RECEIVING: Menominee (Devon Barley 3-20; Shaun Sullivan 2-14) Harbor Beach (Schelke 11-136; Travis Essenmacher 3-14; Justin Seltz 3-20)