MENOMINEE — Junior Aidan Bellisle scored three of his team’s five first-half touchdowns, the Maroons’ defense locked up for four quarter and Menominee came away with a 41-0 blowout victory over Gladstone on Friday night in a game that meant a lot moving forward to the playoffs.
Since the football season was shortened due to COVID-19, every team in the U.P. is going to make the playoffs so no matter what the Maroons were in. Gladstone, however, was sitting in the top spot of Division 6 — the same division as Menominee — and with the win the Maroons knocked the Braves off their throne and all but locked up a home playoff game in two weeks.
“It’s nice to see a shutout after a tough loss to Marquette last week,” Menominee coach Jamie Schomer said. “I thought the kids played very hard, fundamentally sound and ran the ball hard. Give Gladstone respect, we thought we were going to get a good game but our kids came out and just dominated. We knew what this game meant for playoffs and the importance of this game, and our kids came out and performed. Our seniors and everyone knew this was potentially the last game at Blesch Field if they would have lost and I think that gave some extra incentive to play like we did.”
Menominee received the opening kickoff and used a healthy dosage of Bellisle on the first drive as he ran the ball nine times out of 12 total plays. On his ninth carry of the drive on second and goal from Gladstone’s seven-yard line, Bellisle took the snap, bounced around the left end, stiff-armed a Gladstone tackler off him and walked into the endzone. His nine runs on the opening possession gave him 60 quick yards.
Whenever Gladstone had the ball offensively, the Maroons’ defense made life miserable for everyone, keying on quarterback Cam Kelly and running back Ryan Polley and forcing someone else to try and beat them but Gladstone did not have an answer.
“Heading into the week we worked on open-field tackling and making sure we contain Cam and Ryan, and after giving up 44 points to Marquette last week it feels great to be able to keep (Gladstone) scoreless,” Bellisle said.
After a bad Menominee punt that netted minus five yards, Gladstone took over with great field position near midfield, but a false start penalty on first down backed the Braves up to first and 15.
A fumbled snap on third down brought up a fourth and 17, and after Kelly was flushed out of the pocket by the Maroons’
pressure he tried to pick up the first down with his feet but was met on the sideline by Brady Badker who blasted him out of bounds for a turnover on downs.
That brought the Maroons’ offense back on the field, and they took advantage as Bellisle pounded his way for 11 yards on two carries to set his team up at Gladstone’s 31-yard line. A dropped pass in the endzone and an offside penalty on Gladstone brought up a third and six from the 26-yard line, and Menominee’s offensive line opened up a massive hole for senior Jon Spegel to run through and he did the rest, sprinting 26 yards to paydirt. Joe Romero-Haire then found Brody Waara on an out route near the front right pylon for the 2-point conversion to take a 14-0 lead with 8:28 left in the first half.
As did much of the first half, the last eight-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter belonged solely to the Maroons.
The defense forced another punt and Menominee gained possession at its own 33 but it didn’t take long for Menominee to get into Gladstone’s territory, even after a holding penalty pushed the Maroons back to a first and 22 at their own 20, but Romero-Haire
scrambled for 15 yards and Bellisle did the rest to get the first down.
In Gladstone’s territory at the 44, Romero-Haire dropped back to pass and hooked up with a wide-open
Spegel down the middle of the field for a 30 yard completion down to Gladstone’s eight-yard line. Bellisle almost made it to the endzone on first down but was stopped short and looked to have injured his ankle in the process, but he bounced back up and after a few limps took his position at fullback and plowed through the middle of the line for another Maroons’ touchdown.
“When we look at Aidan we know we have a very gifted athlete and a tough kid,” Schomer said. “We saw some things in the defense we thought we could attack and we know we can expect good things from Aidan when he has the ball.”
After another Menominee touchdown on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Romero-Haire to Brady Schultz over two Gladstone defenders, the Braves tried airing it out to see if that would give them any luck before halftime.
On Gladstone’s first play of the drive, Kelly dropped back to pass and thought he saw one of his receivers wide open towards the middle of the field, but what he didn’t see was Bellisle lurking. Once Kelly released the ball, Bellisle broke on it for an interception that he brought back to Gladstone’s 29.
The very next play for Menominee was a pass play, and Romero-Haire took a short dropback, tossed it up and over the head of a Gladstone defender and into the hands of Bellisle, and as he landed he quickly juked out a defender before diving across the goal line for his third touchdown of the half and to put Menominee up 34-0.
“Joe’s pass to Brady really sparked our whole team’s energy, and when I saw Cam (Kelly) rolling right I knew I was out of his vision, so when I saw his shoulders square I just cut in front of the receiver and caught it,” Bellisle said. “Then the first play on offense we called a play where Joe can throw it to whoever is open, and I went up to him and told him ‘throw it to me, I’m always open on this play’ and he did, I caught it then had to make one guy miss and dove in the endzone. That whole sequence will always stick with me.”
Gladstone had no answer for Bellisle in the first half as he carried the ball 19 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns in addition to the one catch for 29 yards and a score. As a team, Menominee gained 256 first half yards to Gladstone’s 90.
“(Gladstone) was loading up the power side so we started running weak side plays and our line just did a great job of opening up for me and there’s nothing better when I see that I have a one-on-one opportunity in the open field,” Bellisle said.
The Braves’ best scoring chance came on the first drive on the third quarter as they were able to get all the way down to Menominee’s six-yard line before the wheels fell off.
After Kelly rushed for one yard on first down to set his team up with a second and five from the five, he carried it once more for two yards to give his team a look at third and three. On the play, however, Gladstone was flagged for a personal foul that pushed it back 15 yards from the three all the way to the 18, and Menominee’s defense used another defensive stand to preserve the shutout.
The final score of the game came from Romero-Haire, who tied Bellisle’s three touchdowns (two rush, one receiving) with his third score of the game (two pass, one rush) on a two-yard scramble.
“Joe had a couple beautiful throws tonight,” Schomer said. “He had a nice rollout pass and another one to Aidan. He’s gifted as far as throwing the ball and we like having him back there for us.”
Bellisle was the only player in the game to cross over the century mark as he had 24 carries for 121 yards and two scores and Spegel rushed six times for 48 yards and a touchdown. Romero-Haire completed 3-of-7 passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns and his three completions went to Schultz (37-yard touchdown), Bellisle (29-yard touchdown) and Spegel (30-yard catch). For the game, Menominee outgained Gladstone 358-224.
Next up for Menominee was supposed to be on the road in Kingsford on Friday, but all Dickinson County schools have shut down for at least two weeks due to COVID, so this week is still up in the air. But, one this is for certain, Menominee will be playing again at Walton Blesch Field this season.