Saugatuck falls short in Division 7 state finals Early deficit hurts Indians in 21-0 loss
The similari- ties between this year’s Saugatuck football team and the 2010 Indians’ squad are uncanny.
Both teams suffered a lop- sided loss to archrival Fen- nville, 63-26 in 2010 and 40-7 this season. Both teams fin- ished the regular season at 6- 3 to record the minimum number of wins to secure an automatic bid to the playoffs. Both teams went on improba- ble postseason runs that re- sulted in a berth in the state finals at Ford Field.
And unfortunately both teams ended the season with a 21-point loss.
Taking on familiar foe Pe- wamo-Westphalia in the Divi- sion 7 finals, the Indians surrendered a touchdown on the game’s opening posses- sion and never got fully un-
Saugatuck made it to Ford Field for the second time in school history as it played Pewamo-West- phalia in the Division 7 title game. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)
Saugatuck coach Bill Dunn (right) shakes hands with Pewamo- Westphalia coach Jeremy Miller. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)
tracked offensively in drop- ping the 21-0 decision on Sat- urday, Nov. 25.
The 2010 Saugatuck team fell 42-21 to Mt. Pleasant Sa- cred Heart in the Division 8 championship game.
Although disappointed with the outcome of the game, Saugatuck coach Bill Dunn had nothing but praise for his players’ effort throughout the playoffs.
“We had a great season,” Dunn said. “Nobody expected ustobehere.Iamproudof
Davis (58) close in on the play.
the bottom up,” Misko said. “We ended last season with 66 wrestlers on the roster and finished 12th in the state.”
While Misko won’t have to build a program from the bot- tom up in Allegan, he does in- herit a team with some uncertainty. The Tigers saw their long conference winning streak snapped last season and failed to win the confer- ence title, finishing second to Sturgis.
“As far as goals for the sea- son, I would like to get the team back on top of the Wolverine Conference and it would be awesome to make our way back to the team State Tournament,” Misko said. “But I have been very clear with the team that our primary goal for this season is to make sure other teams know that when they face Al- legan, they are in for a fight.”
Misko expects senior Jake Orr (130 pound) and sopho- more Tyson Emmons (103) to lead that fight.
“Jake Orr and Tyson Em- mons should lead the way this season in terms of wins,” Misko said. “Although I would not be surprised if a few other guys stepped up and did some damage this year.”
Other returning wrestlers include senior Jess Burchfield (215), juniors Tyler Mead (140), Trystan Jacobs (152) and Jon Rivas (160) and sophomores Tyson Mead (130) and Tryston Mohrland (145).
Newcomers include first- year seniors Chris Hitchock (140) and Dennis Littlejohn (171) along with freshmen
my guys. They did a tremen- dous job to get here. We had a few struggles, but we never quit on each other and we gave them a fight in the sec- ond half as best we could.”
Saugatuck senior linebacker Reece Shreckengust, the Indi- ans’ all-time leading tackler who matched teammate Con- nor Carper with a game-best nine tackles, shared similar sentiments.
“It’s been our dream forever to get here, and the first thing yesterday when we first walked in (to Ford Field), it was amazing,” Schreckengust said. “It’s a great stadium, a great atmosphere. Losing hurts, but to get all the way here, it was a great season. I’m proud of every one of my teammates, my coaches, and myself and everyone else in our community for getting here.”
This is the third straight year Saugatuck has seen its season come to an end at the hands of the Pirates. The pre- vious seasons saw the teams meet in the district finals sporting identical 10-0 records as P-W won 38-28 in 2015 and 25-19 last season.
P-W senior running back Bryce Thelen, who rushed for a game-best 92 yards, said his team looks forward to squar- ing off with the Indians.
“They always play hard and (are) so respectful,” Thelen said. “It’s always a hard- nosed game, always close, al- ways super physical. They’re just fun games to play in that come down to a couple plays throughout the game that tilt the game one way or the other.”
Thelen did his part to help his team build an early lead, scoring on a 5-yard run with 6:38 left in the first quarter to
Tyler Holly (135), Codey Wilkerson (152) and Zak Fos- ter (189).
“We have a few weight classes where we will be starting freshman or first-year wrestlers,” Misko said. “The staff and I know how critical these weight classes are.
“In the end, it will be up to each individual wrestler on whether or not they can cope with the stress that wrestling induces. I would bet that sev- eral of these guys are going to shock some teams this year, and that is always a fun expe- rience.”
The year might be different. But the challenge facing Fen- nville wresting coach Steve Fries as he prepares for the 2017-18 campaign is a famil- iar one.
“We will be a young team overall again this year,” he said.
Not that the Blackhawks will be void of any experience on the roster.
“We do have four strong re- turning wrestlers this year,” Fries said.
Fries is quite familiar with one of those returning wresters, as it is his younger brother Nick. A junior, Nick Fries is slated to wrestle at the 189-pound weight class.
Senior Roberto Sifuentes (285) also returns, with junior Mauricio Bedolla (152) and Eric Hernandez (215) round- ing out the list returning letter winners.
Newcomers include senior Mike Fuller and junior Noah Rowder.
“Along with our returning
cap a 12-play, 65-yard drive on the game’s opening pos- session.
“We preached all week that we have to come out strong,” P-W coach Jeremy Miller said. “That set the tone. We pulled our center, which is something we didn’t do a whole lot this season. We kind of kept that in our back pocket and used misdirection to give them a different look.”
After holding Saugatuck to minus-two yards on the Indi- ans’ ensuing possession, the Pirates made it a 14-0 lead as quarterback Jimmy Lehman scored on a 12-yard run.
In the second quarter, Lehman suffered an injury to his non-throwing hand while stiff-arming a Saugatuck defender. But he stayed in the game long enough to complete a 12-yard touchdown pass to Peyton Heckman later in the drive to give his team a 21-0 lead with 31 seconds left before halftime.
Saugatuck, meanwhile, was limited to 30 yards of total offense in the first half.
“They’re just a big, physical, fast team,” Saugatuck senior quarterback Jackson Shriver said. “That’s what makes a great defense. They follow their system and play hard. They have a great team. It was hard to play against them.”
The second half was better for Saugatuck both offensively and defensively.
With Lehman limited to one offensive play due to his injured hand, Saugatuck limited P-W to 128 yards of offensive during the final two quarters and kept the Pirates from tacking on any more points.
“To hold a team like that to 21 is a good credit,” Dunn said. “A couple of those came off miscues either offensively, or a turnover. Our defense was exceptional considering the opponent.”
Offensively, the Indians twice advanced the ball into the red zone.
The first of those drives featured runs of 13 yards by Jacob Stewart and 12 yards by Bradley Dunn as Saugatuck got to the P-W 18-yard line before Pirate Jacob Pung ended the threat with an interception.
The next Saugatuck possession included runs of 14 and 24 yards by Shriver, who also found Keegan Carper for a 12-yard pass on a key fourth-down situation, as the Indians got to the P-W 4-yard line. The drive stalled there, though, as the Pirate defense stiffened and forced Saugatuck to turn over the ball on downs.
“We had our moments when we could’ve come back, and unfortunately it didn’t happen,” Bill Dunn said. “They were just a little bit better today.”
Stewart rushed for 46 yards on nine carries, with Shriver rushing for 46 yards on 11 carries to lead Saugatuck (10-4). Connor Carper had 36 yards on seven carries and Bradley Dunn had 29 yards on nine carries, while Shriver went 2-for-6 passing for 17 yards.