Saugatuck upends Madison Heights Madison in Division 7 state semifinal
Failure isn’t failure if a lesson from it’s learned.
Those are among the lyrics from the 1997 Garth Brooks song “How You Ever Gonna Know.” And it’s a sentiment with which Saugatuck football coach Bill Dunn agrees whole-heartedly.
Because after suffering a crushing 40-7 loss to archrival Fennville in the regular-season finale, the Indians could have folded. Instead, they’ve taken the lesson learned from that loss and thrived, reeling off four straight wins in the Division 7 playoffs.
The included a 14-7 victory over Madison Heights Madison in a semifinal game at Lansing Catholic on Saturday, Nov. 18, to earn Saugatuck a berth in the state finals for the second time in school history.
“That was a beat down,” Dunn said of the loss to Fennville. “But in the end, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to us. We learned a lot about ourselves that game and the kids really committed themselves to working on the things that went wrong. We were embarrassed and didn’t want to feel that again.
“All that hard work has paid off.”
It certainly has.
Following a 47-21 win over Springport in an opening-round playoff game, the Indians (10-3) allowed 21 total points in their next three games: eight to Maple Valley, six to Cassopolis and seven to Madison Heights.
“What a great defensive effort with timely defensive plays,” Dunn said. “This whole playoff run has been great defense and controlling the ball. When the time is right, we are able to hit a big play, but defense has really carried us.”
And never did the defense make a bigger statement than late in the fourth quarter against Madison Heights.
Facing a fourth-and-8 on their own 32-yard line, the Eagles opted to go for it trailing 14-7. Enter Jackson Shriver, who knocked down the pass to give possession to Saugatuck, which was able to run out the clock.
That was the fourth time Saugatuck stopped Madison Heights on a fourth-down attempt.
“I just saw a receiver crossing the middle,” Shriver said. “I knew I had to get there and I was able to hit it down. It was a big moment. It was a big sigh of relief.”
Not that Shriver’s contributions were limited to the defensive side of the ball. The starting quarterback, Shriver had a hand in both of Saugatuck’s touchdowns.
The first of those TDs came on the game’s opening drive as Shriver capped an 80-yard drive with a 14-yard run. The successful extra-point kick from Evan Czarnecki made it 7-0 in Saugatuck’s favor.
Then, one the first play of the second quarter, Shriver found a streaking Brad Dunn for a 44-yard scoring pass to up the Indians’ advantage to 14-0.
“We thought that play was there and Jackson and Brad ran it perfectly,” Bill Dunn said.
Madison Heights (12-1), which entered the postseason with the most playoff points in Division 7, threatened to score as the first half came to a close. But Connor Carper intercepted a Brown pass in the end zone as time expired.
Carper was playing for the first time since suffering injuring his shoulder in the loss to Fennville. At the time, the prevailing thought was that his season was over.
“My goal was to be ready to play in the tournament,” Carper said.
The Eagles finally got on the scoreboard less than four minutes into the third quarter as Brown hooked up with Zyaire Croskey to cut Saugatuck’s lead in half at 14-7.
But that was all Madison Heights could muster against the Saugatuck defense, which led the Indians to the Division 7 title game.
“This means everything,” Saugatuck linebacker Reece Schreckengust said. “This has been our goal since playing Rocket football. Ever since we started playing high school football, we have talked about it. It just means so much to get (to the finals).”
Saugatuck will take on a familiar foe in the finals, as it squares off with Pewamo-Westphalia on Saturday, Nov. 25, at 10 a.m. at Ford Field.
P-W—the state runner-up two years ago and the state champion last season—knocked Saugatuck out of the playoffs in districts each of the past two seasons.
“I am so happy for these kids,” Bill Dunn said. “Words cannot explain the feeling right now. Every week, these kids have been working and improving and believing. P-W is a great program and it is going to be a great challenge. We’re up for that challenge. These kids have proven so many people wrong that they are up for it.”