Menominee Maroons celebrate their win with the M&M Log after the 107th M&M Game Saturday at Walton Blesch Field. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Menominee Maroons celebrate their win with the M&M Log after the 107th M&M Game Saturday at Walton Blesch Field. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
MENOMINEE - When Marinette set off alarm bells in the 107th M&M Game, Menominee brought out the hook-and-ladder and went aerial.

The Maroons and Marines lit up an overcast day with big-play sparklers before Menominee evened the series (50-50-7) with a 56-27 win in front of a cheering throng of maroon and purple at Walton Blesch Field Saturday afternoon.

Instead of rolling over against the highly favored Maroons, the 2-6 Marines took the fight to state-ranked Menominee (7-0).

"Let's give 'em a fight," Marinette's Josh Lapacz exhorted his teammates before they took the field.

The Maroons held a precarious 14-6 lead late in the second quarter with the Marines gaining confidence and swagger with every play.

"I give Andy (Walters, Marinette coach) a lot of credit," Menominee coach Joe Noha said. "He had his team prepared and ready to play. They fought the whole game."

After being slapped with a holding penalty, the Maroons stung Marinette with a surprise. Justin Brilinski fired a laser to Shaun Sullivan. As the Marines converged on Sullivan, he lateraled it back to James Brown, who blazed to the end zone untouched to complete the 47-yard scoring strike and spike the lead to 21-6 with 53 seconds left in the half.

"We're practiced that play for the last two weeks," Noha said. "The kids are always asking when we're going to run it. (Marinette) was in the right alignment to try it and we executed it beautifully."

Just 12 seconds into the second half, the Marines had their fans roaring again. Marcus Maguire scooped up fumble on the opening kick and sprinted 19 yards to paydirt. Austin Mahlik's PAT cut the lead 21-13.

"We said we had to match their intensity and I really think we did," Marinette coach Andy Walters said. "I think our kids for a bit were playing with confidence."

The Maroons had 11 plays of more than 20 yards and with the student sections of both teams screaming back and forth, another huge play turned the tide back toward Menominee. Sullivan ran a post route and was all by himself when the Marines broke coverage to stick with Devon Harris. Sullivan pulled in a spiral from Brilinski and raced 47 yards to the end zone. Evan Pohlmann's fourth straight PAT boosted the lead to 28-13.

"They were committing eight, nine guys in the box," Noha said. "That gave us the opportunity to go other places. Our passing game opened up. Our offensive line did a good job of protecting Justin and Devon."

The Maroon defense held Marinette to just four yards in the third quarter while Menominee opened up a 42-13 lead.

Brilinski put on a show as flashy as his gold shoes. He rushed for 190 yards and three touchdowns with 14 carries.

"They got more guys at the point attack," Walters said of Menominee's success on power sweeps. "They're coached well enough that they can see where we shifted on certain plays, and they hit us with pop passes."

The right side of the Maroon line caved in the Marines' pursuit and Brilinski sprinted 44 yards for a touchdown with 6:29 left in the third quarter.

"It feels amazing," Brilinski said. "You can feel the ground shake and everyone is going crazy."

After the defense forced its second straight three-and-out, the Maroons needed just eight plays to push the lead to 42-13. Sullivan made a lunging grab of Brilinski's 6-yard jump pass on third-and-7. Harris jump-cut through Marinette for a 13-yard run and then put on string of shake-and-back moves en route to a 22-yard scoring run with 1:43 left in the third quarter.

Sullivan added his third TD 10 seconds into the fourth quarter when a Marine defender slipped trying to elude an official and he snared a 61-yard strike from Harris. Pohlmann kicked his seventh PAT to run his school record streak to 30.

"The corner came up on me and I was open both times," Sullivan said. "It's special. If there's any time you want to have a good game, it's in this game."

Luke Johnson's kick return to the Marinette 44 set up the Marines' third score. A 25-yard run by Jimmy Jackimowicz and Colton Dessart's bulldozing 15-yard run led to Dessart's 4-yard TD run with 10:04 left.

The Maroons had one more stick of dynamite left in their arsenal, however, as Austin Vorachek grabbed the ensuing kickoff, broke into the open at the 22 and outraced the Marines 85 yards to the end zone with Nick Cattani providing the downfield blocking all the way.

"I have to give credit to the front line and the wedge," said Vorachek, "and I have to give a shout-out to Nick Cattani for his blocking. It feels amazing. Right when the wedge set up, I had a feeling."

Pohlmann tied his school record with his eighth extra point kick and broke the M&M Game record of seven set in 1929.

Before heading back over the bridge, Marinette gave its fans one more M&M Game highlight when Caylubb Maske scored on a 43-yard run around the right side.

"I knew what kind of team we could be," Walters said. "They learned something big about themselves."

Menominee scored on its second series of the game when Brown burst through a huge hole on the right side and rambled 43 yards and Brilinski capped the two-play lightning strike with an 11-yard run.

Maguire connected with Brian Klumb on a 45-yard bomb and Aaron Benson made the catch of the day with a diving grab of Maguire's 17-yard pass at the Maroon 1. Blake Miller bulled over on the next play to cut the lead to 7-6, but Brandon Chouinard blocked the PAT.

The Maroons burned the Marines on the edge when Brilinski cut through a hole on the right side and dashed 57 yards to the house to give Menominee its 14-7 lead with 3:49 left in the first half.

The combined total of 83 points is the highest in the M&M Game since the epic 58-54 Maroon win in 2001.

"There were a lot of big plays in the game," said Noha. "There were mistakes on both sides. It was a tough football game in the first half. You're always going to have adversity. You either do good things or your fold after bad things happen.

"I thought our sideline did a good job of keeping things upbeat. It was good to see how the kids responded."

Menominee 56, Marinette 27

Marinette 6 0 7 14 - 27
Menominee 7 14 21 14 - 56

First Quarter

Men - Justin Brilinski 11-yard run. Evan Pohlmann kick
Mar - Blake Miller 1-yard run. Kick blocked

Second Quarter

Men - Brilinski 57-yard run. Pohlmann kick
Men - Sullivan pass from Brilinski, lateral to James Brown 47 yards. Pohlmann kick

Third Quarter

Mar - Marcus Maguire 19-yard fumble recovery. Austin Mahlik kick
Men - Sullivan 46-yard pass from Brilinski. Pohlmann kick
Men - Brilinski 44-yard run. Pohlmann kick
Men - Devon Harris 22-yard run. Pohlmann kick

Fourth Quarter

Men - Sullivan 46 pass from Devon Harris. Pohlmann kick
Mar - Colton Dessart 4-yard run. Mahlik kick
Men - Austin Vorachek 85-yard kick return. Pohlmann kick
Mar - Jimmy Jackimowicz 43-yard run. Mahlik kick

RUSHING: Menominee (3216 yards; Justin Brilinski 14-190 3 TDs; James Brown 7-67; Devon Harris 8-54 TD; Colin Nerat 2-3; Reid Rastall 1-2) Marinette (36-169; Caylubb Maske 11-60 TD Colton Dessart 10-43 TD; Marcus Maguire 6-22; Jimmy Jackimowicz 2-37; Davon Malone 3-19; Blake Miller 2-5 TD; Luke Johnson 1-(-4); Josh Lapacz 1-(-3)

PASSING: Menominee 7-11-187 (Brilinski 6-8-126; Harris 1-3-61) Marinette (Maguire 6-11-75)

RECEIVING: Menominee (Shaun Sullivan 3-107, 2TDs; Brown 1-47 TD; Harris 2-26; Nate Marcin 1-8) Marinette (Brian Klumb 2-53; Aaron Benson 2-27; Dessart 2-12)
EagleHerald assistant sports editor

MENOMINEE - Justin Brilinski had one more run to make after his monster M&M Game effort Saturday afternoon.

Menominee's junior tailback sprinted over the sidelines and picked up the M&M Game Log before being joined by fellow captains Shaun Sullvan, Brandon Chouinard and Ryne Francour in a jubilant jog back to their teammates.

"It means a lot to me and the team," said Brilinski. "I want to thank all my blockers. They did a great job."

Brilinski was honored with the "Berserker Warrior" helmet for his outstanding all-around play.

James Brown was a block of granite leading the way on the Maroon sweeps.

"I like blocking more than scoring touchdowns," Brown explained. "When you make a block and someone scores a touchdown, it's one of the best feelings in the world. All of our linemen had a good day today."

Saturday's victory was special for Maroon defensive coaches Drew Buyarski and Dave Mathieu, who coached the junior varsity before stepping up to the varsity last year.

"Drew and I have had these kids for all four years, because we didn't have a freshman team," said Mathieu. "These kids work really hard. I'm going to have to make a memento for them."

Menominee's defensive starters allowed just one touchdown.

"We're very resilient," said Mathieu. "When there's a bad play or penalty, we bounce back. Our offense is capable of scoring at any time. That takes the pressure off the defense."

The Marines earned the respect of Maroon defensive linemen Brandon Chouinard and Mason Kewley.

"They were tough," said Chouinard. "We knew they would come out and hit us. We came together as a team. There are peaks and valleys in football. You have to deal with them."

Kewley, who was honored as the Menominee homecoming king at halftime, expected nothing less than Marinette's best.

"Marinette always comes out tough," he said. "They're better than their record shows. This shows that when the going gets tough, we keep going and we can persevere through anything."

Menominee middle linebacker Ryne Francour is tough as nails but he tipped his hat to the Marines.

"They came out a lot tougher," he noted. "It was a really fun game. Winning the M&M Game is always special."

Offensive line coach Jamie Schomer changed up the blocking schemes at halftime and his linemen responded to lead a 35-point flurry in the second half. Menominee completed five of seven passes for 139 yards after halftime.