Cardinals edge Atlanta 26-20

JOHANNESBURG- Atlanta coach Troy Cheedie was on the field the last time the Huskies beat Johannesburg-Lewiston, in 1992.

Cheedie was yards away from being on the field the latest time as his Atlanta team came painstakingly close to stunning Johannesburg-Lewiston in a 26-20 road loss Friday in the first round of the Division 8 playoffs.

Altanta twice had the ball inside the Cardinals’ 30-yard-line in the final four minutes of the game, but couldn’t quite put the finishing touches on what would have been a jarring upset.

“We really battled back and gave them a heck of a run,” Cheedie said. “Our seniors really made a difference. We only have five, but they showed great leadership throughout the season. At one point we were down two touchdowns (tonight) but we kept fighting.”

The Huskies (5-5) almost fought themselves into the second round as J-L’s 26-12 fourth quarter lead quickly evaporated.

With its back against the wall on a 3rd-and-11, junior quarterback Seth Teets found Jacob Chambers on a 71-yard touchdown pass with 9:30 left in the game. Teets’ 2-point conversion pass to Jay Webster brought Atlanta within six, at 26-20.

Atlanta stopped J-L (8-2) on four on the Cardinals’ next possession and quickly moved the ball downfield, as passes to Chambers and Webster both set up first down with the ball at the J-L 22-yard-line.

Three straight incompletions and a short run later, it looked as if the home team was about to salt away the victory.

But, it wasn’t that easy for J-L, who fumbled the ball on the second drive, giving Atlanta back the ball with 37 seconds left at the J-L 40-yard-line.

Teets quickly hooked up with Taylor Juergens on a 13-yard pass, but four straight incompletions allowed the Cardinals to escape with an uncomfortable victory.

“We just couldn’t get the completions in the end when we needed them,” Cheedie said.

Teets did have another banner day in terms of passing yards, completing 14-of-33 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns. He added a team-high 48 rushing yards.

His 39-yard strike to Kyle Klein in the first quarter opened the game’s scoring and served as a harbinger that the game wouldn’t be an easy one for J-L.

“They played their hearts out,” said J-L coach Joe Smokevitch. “They are a much better team than in years past.”

The Cardinals, who attemped just one pass in the game, scored twice, including an 81-yard run by Dillon Cushman, to make the score 14-6.

But the Huskies scored a huge touchdown just before the half when Chambers capped a nice drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds left in the first half.

Chambers, a solid multi-purpose player, led the team with 113 receiving yards and added 43 rushing yards.

The stats looked much different for J-L, who won with its familiar formula of Wing-T power football.

J-L pounded out 355 rushing yards, spread evenly among a number of backs, including Cushman who led the way with 138 yards and Nick May, who had 98 yards and three touchdowns. Ethan May added 68 yards in the J-L victory.

The Cardinals advance to next week’s District Final at St. Ignace.

After the game, Cheedie continually singled out his team’s senior leadership, a group that includes Chambers, Juergens, Josh Barrett, Jacob Wojtoviets and Evan Reeves.