BENAC: Week 6 provided plenty of gridiron thrills
In football, they say that any team can win on “any given day” and last week’s games certainly proved that. There were a few fortunate and unfortunate twists that made Week 6 the most exciting week of football this season.
The biggest surprise of the week turned out to be a 40-14 win by Atlanta over Hillman. I think it is fair to say that few people in the area saw this coming after Atlanta started the season 0-3.
In Week 1, the Huskies’ defense seemed tentative against an overpowering Alcona running game and their offense couldn’t string together a successful drive in a 51-0 loss.
Although the Huskies looked a little better against Central Lake in a 30-12 loss and a lot better in a 49-30 Mio loss, their losing streak in the beginning of the season tainted their image in many people’s minds.
Hillman started their season on the opposite trajectory. The Tigers looked like an offensive powerhouse in a 55-54 win against Gaylord Saint Mary and came out even stronger against Au Gres with a 48-8 win.
Quarterback Ty Jones, receiver Mason VanPamel and running back Kenny Kolcan seem to have figured out a system with coach Bill Koenig that has help them pick up major yards, major points and blow out victories.
Nobody held the Tigers’ 42-26 loss against East Jordan against them too much. After all, East Jordan is a bigger school. And after Hillman blanked Rogers City 47-0, the Tigers seemed nearly invincible.
Meanwhile, the Huskies were quietly figuring out how to win and they followed a winless start with wins over Hale and Au Gres. But Hale and Au Gres are not the strongest teams this year, so many people continued to take the Huskies for granted.
It was obvious to many that Atlanta was struggling to adapt to the loss of quarterback Garrett Badgero. After all, Badgero was a dynamite player. He was not only Atlanta’s leading rusher and scorer, but he was voted the Alpena News 2012 Player of the Year. Losing such a dominating player is tough for any team to replace.
But then, a funny thing happened up in Hillman’s week five matchup with Mio: Mio won, 47-26. That isn’t too surprising, in and of itself, as that game was predicted to be a tight shoot out between two of the best throwing quarterbacks in the area.
Mio’s Brad Rhoads currently leads the area with 1,286 total passing yards as of last week. Jones is second with 896. VanPamel leads the area in receiving yards (395) while Mio’s Colton McGregor and Seth Thomey are tied for second (373).
These kinds of numbers are huge, but Hillman had an ace in their pocket with Kolcan, third in the area with 639 rushing yards. Unfortunately for Hillman, he got knocked out of the game and Hillman couldn’t compensate.
Hillman was also hampered by a weak pass defense. The Tigers have traditionally been a run-dominated team, but they have successfully transitioned to a passing offense this year. Their defense hasn’t adapted as easily.
Perhaps this weak passing D explains the Huskies’ win. Without Badgero, the Huskies did some experimenting and tended to run the ball more with Jake Chambers and Josh Barrett. This led to little success. Chambers is a tall, fast player, but lacked the raw power of a true power back. Barrett is a solid power runner, but often works best as a pass blocker.
Atlanta tweaked its approach, utilizing Barrett primarily as a runner and blocker and Chambers as a receiver. Moving Chambers back to receiver was a masterstroke: his height and speed are perfectly suited to the position. Chambers has 291 yards and four touchdowns on the year.
Seth Teets has grown into a solid quarterback, with 668 passing yards and five touchdowns.
In spite of all these positive changes, it was still shocking to see Atlanta dominate the Tigers. Hillman hadn’t scored under 20 points all season.
As it stands, both teams are 3-3 and perceptions of both teams have changed.
The other surprise game of the week was Posen’s 36-20 loss against Engadine. This was an unfortunate game for a variety of reasons. After all, you never want to see a local team lose against a team from out of the area.
Posen seems to have turned a corner this year. The Vikings not only came within two points of beating Cedarville, but simply destroyed Bellaire two weeks ago 62-14.
This may not seem like a big deal, but Bellaire had come within two points of winning last year’s 8-man state championship.
Such a blow out really sends a message and after being the only Alpena News football expert to pick Posen to win that game (says the ever humble sportswriter), I figured Posen had a sure shot at beating Engadine.
The first quarter seemed to indicate that: Posen traditionally starts out strong in the first quarter and the Vikings scored 20 unanswered points against an Engadine team that struggled to contain running back Nick Hincka and quarterback Brandon Dietz.
What happened? For those who weren’t at the game, didn’t read my story (shame on you!) or didn’t hear through the grapevine, Posen ran into bad luck with injuries. A lot of injuries.
The first came to Dietz during the third drive of the game. He was unable to return and Travis Sharpe had to fill in. This was huge: Dietz is second only to Hincka in rushing yards on his team and fifth in the area with 558 yards.
At first Sharpe seemed to pick up the pieces. On his very first play, he ran for 54 yards and set up Posen’s third and final touchdown.
Unfortunately, Dietz isn’t just a good runner and quarterback: he’s an irreplaceable defensive presence. Engadine quickly started scoring and holding off Posen.
Normally, Posen has Hincka, Dietz and Sharpe as running options. Limited to only two, the Vikings were forced to rely on mostly Hincka.
Then, Hincka got hurt. He was able to stay in the game, but could no longer play his A-game. Later on, Posen’s center got hurt and had to be replaced by a freshman center who had no experience on the offensive line.
This led to a 20-yard sack of Sharpe and the injury that took him out of the game.
Forced between starting third-string players or conceding the game, Posen coach Wayne Karsten took the wise route and called the game.
Although it is sad to see a team lose this way, I believe Karsten made the only correct decision. Eight man football has very small, tight knit squads that lack depth in the skilled position.
There’s a difference between “playing to the bitter end” and potentially putting players health and well being at risk. Placed between a rock and a hard place, Karsten chose the health of his players in proper perspective.
The result of these two games show that football is a harsh sport that rarely goes the way you expect it.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.