Maroons force their will
Menominee grinds Panthers to a halt
Sunday, November 17, 2013 6:00 PM
MENOMINEE - Menominee turned Walton Blesch Field into a Maroon force field in the final game of the season on its home turf.
Menominee defensive tackle Brandon Chouinard slams a Standish-Sterling ballcarrier to the turf in the first half Saturday at Walton Blesch Field.
The Maroons raised the regional title trophy in the mist and fog at Walton Blesch Field following a 49-27 win over Standish Sterling Central Saturday afternoon.
"They played their hearts out," coach Joe Noha said, still feeling the chill from being doused by a bucket of ice water. "The seniors haven't lost at home in their four years. They weren't going to be outscored by Standish."
The final score doesn't reveal the extent of Menominee's dominance. The Maroons held an early 28-0 lead and stretched the margin to 42-6 early in the third quarter.
"Menominee is a great football team," said Standish Sterling coach Paul Walderzak, who coached his last game after 32 years as head coach of the Panthers. "They're probably going to win it all and I hope they do. I'm certainly going to be rooting for them."
The Maroons' blockbuster defensive line went toe-to-toe against the Panthers' huge front line and won most of the battles. Standish Sterling was unable to establish its vaunted ground game and was forced to put the ball in the air more than it wanted to.
The offensive line stood of the big boys on the Standish line while opening seams for the running game and providing a wall of protection for a devastating passing attack.
"We knew they would come out and smuck us in the mouth," said Noha. "The offensive and defensive lines did a great job. We met force with force. They're big, but we used our quickness and agility to play power football."
James Brown scored four touchdowns, Justin Brilinski sliced up the Panthers with his precise passing and Devon Harris turned in another playoff dazzler with three TD receptions.
Harris returned the opening kick to the Standish 44. Five plays later Brown plowed in from the 2 and Evan Pohlmann added the PAT.
After Standish recovered a fumbled punt return at the Maroon 27, the defense sent a harsh message to the Panthers when Harris picked off a pass to stuff a red zone threat at the 15
Brilinski jarred the pads of the Panthers for a 14-yard run before firing a 58-yard scoring strike to Harris.
Harris burned the Panthers again with a punt return to the 28 after leaving a helpless defender grasping at air at the 41. Brilinski connected with Harris for a 19-yard strike and Brown finished off the 8-play march with a 1-yard run. Pohlmann's PAT stretched the lead to 21-0 with 5:24 left in the first half.
The Maroons' air defense stung the Panthers again when Shaun Sullivan cut in front of a Panther receiver and picked off a pass at the Standish 37.
Harris gunned a 16-yard pass to Devon Barley and Brilinski found Barley wide open up the middle for a 29-yard completion. Brown rammed through the Panthers for his third TD on a 3-yard blast with 3:10 left in the half.
Standish Sterling's ball control game plan was mired in the mud as the Maroons held Panther ground game to just three yards on their first four possessions.
"We struggled running the ball, but that was more them than it was us," said Walderzak.
The Panthers cracked the scoreboard after Kyle Blakley swiped a pass at the 24 and returned to the 7. Austen Snyder flipped a 7-yard TD pass to Seth Malcolm with 51 seconds left in the half. Aeron Forsberg knifed in to block the PAT kick.
That was more than enough time for the Maroons to drive 63 yards in seven plays. Harris was on the receiving end of a 2-yard TD pass and Pohlmann launched another PAT over the wall to stretch the lead to 35-6 with three seconds left in the half.
Three plays into the second half, Harris was trapped for a loss with three Panthers swarming over him. The senior wingback spun out of trouble like Houdini shedding a straightjacket and dashed 37 yards to the Standish 5.
"I saw two big guys coming up and I spun out of it," said Harris. "I got great blocking all the way. They didn't stop blocking."
Brown busted over from the 1 two plays later to push the margin to 42-6 and set off the running clock with 9:50 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers froze the clock with an 8-play, 80-yard drive. Snyder connected with Clay Walderzak on a 25-yard pass and fired a 17-yard dart to Jimmy Spencer before rolling out and scoring from the 1 with 4:37 remaining in the third quarter.
The Maroons went to the air for their final outdoor touchdown of the season. Tyler Howell snared a 21-yard spiral from Brilinski, Brilinski lasered a 32-yard pass to Sullivan and Harris capped the air raid with an 18-yard TD reception from Brilinski with 57 seconds left in the third quarter.
Standish Sterling halted the running clock again on its next drive when Walderzak got a step on a defender and rumbled 61 yards on a pass from Snyder.
Snyder scored on a 12-yard run with 7:16 remaining to close out scoring.
Unofficially, Brilinski passed for 233 yards and rushed for 75 yards. Harris had 116 receiving yards and Barley added 73 receiving yards.
The Maroons (12-0) will play Muskegon Oakridge (11-1) in the Division 5 semifinals Saturday at 3 p.m. (CST) at the Superior Dome. The Eagles were ranked third in the final Division 5 state poll. Livonia-Clarenceville (12-0) and Grand Rapids West Catholic (8-4) play in the other semifinal Saturday in Battle Creek.