Bobby Olsen of Menominee returns a kick behind the blocking of William Stegeman (53), Tim Baxa (71) and Ben Thoune (45) during the 104th M&M Game. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Bobby Olsen of Menominee returns a kick behind the blocking of William Stegeman (53), Tim Baxa (71) and Ben Thoune (45) during the 104th M&M Game. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
MARINETTE - Look at Hortonville's breakthrough football season, and the only impressive numbers are 5-3 - the team's record.

The offense hasn't been particularly productive, the defense is certainly not dominant, and the Polar Bears have allowed one more point (126) than they've scored.

Before playing their first playoff game in four years, the Polar Bears will tune up at home tonight at 6 against Marinette at Akin Field.

It'll be the end of a trying season for the injury-plagued Marines, who are coming off a demoralizing loss to archrival Menominee.

"It would be nice to go out with a win," Marinette coach Joel Hanner said. "It's gonna take a lot of heart and a lot of execution and no mistakes."

Hortonville has been winning close games all season.

"I think it's just a matter of them finding a way to win and them believing they can win," first-year Hortonville coach Andy Kolosso said. "Winners find a way to win."

Hortonville's top two runners, Kegan Gennrich (334 yards) and Eric Sprangers (313 yards) average just 3.5 yards per carry. Gennrich, a junior, has been a productive passer in the team's Wing T attack, with 32 completions in 68 attempts for 522 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Zach Vallefsky, who lines up at wingback and wide receiver, leads the Bay Conference in receiving yards (306). He has 17 catches for two scores.

Vallefsky, a 6-foot-3 senior safety who reminds Hanner of former Marine all-conference player Taylor Garceau, also leads the league with seven interceptions.

"He's just a good athlete," Kolosso said. "He understands the game of football."

Tight end Joe Sommers has eight catches for 146 yards and two scores for the Polar Bears.

"They utilize their good athletes in certain situations," according to Hanner. "They're sound and basic. They're very well-coached. I think the big thing, they don't beat themselves."

Option quarterback Landon Derginer is questionable for tonight's game due to an ankle injury. Derginer ranks fourth in the Bay with 556 rushing yards, and his 7.5-yard average leads the league.

Fullback Kyle Keller has 321 rushing yards and a 5.0-yard average. Tailback Dakota Vanidestine (224 rushing yards) is sidelined by a shoulder injury.

The Polar Bears, who run 5-2 and 4-4 defenses, rank third in yards allowed (237).

"Right now we're pretty solid defensively," Kolosso said. "We try to hang our hat on defense. We try to force teams to pass on us."

Kolosso is leery of the Marines, who scored two quick TDs on league champion West De Pere.

"They're still young and you can see that, because every once in awhile they do something good," Kolosso said. "They're a very good football team. They're finding a hard time putting it all together."

Kolosso scouted the Marines at the M&M Game. After arriving at 11:40 a.m., he took in the ambiance of the nation's third oldest prep interstate football rivalry.

"That's an unbelievable atmosphere," the Hortonville coach said. "That's what high school football's all about when you see a rivalry like that. I wish we could get something like that down here."
EagleHerald assistant sports editor

MENOMINEE - This is what the work in the weight room and on the practice field was all about for the Menominee Maroons.

One game to validate their playoff credentials.

A victory over Kingsley at Walton Blesch FIeld Saturday will clinch a playoff berth. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

"If we don't beat Kingsley, we don't deserve to be in the playoffs," coach Ken Hofer said. "We want to make sure we get the job done and go into the playoffs with a good attitude."

The Menominee coach noted that there is a chance the Maroons could play host to a playoff game if Grayling (7-1) loses to a strong Traverse City St. Francis team (6-2) Friday night.

"There's a lot of impact in this game," Hofer said. "We must win. This is actually our second playoff game in two weeks. Hopefully, we'll get a third one."

Don't expect the Stags (3-5) to roll over and play dead for the Maroons.

Kingsley took unbeaten Elk Rapids, which could be the top seed In District 1, Division 5, into overtime before losing 41-40.

The flipside for the Stags was last week's 29-28 win over a winless Sault Ste. Marie team which lost to Gladstone 41-16 in its season opener.

A porous defense has sabotaged a robust offensive effort that has rung up 28.7 points per game. Kingsley had been held to less than four touchdowns just twice.

Max Lajko rushed for 111 yards on 15 carries in Kingsley's first win over Frankfort since 2006.

"You don't want to give him an inch or he'll take the field," said Hofer.

Quarterback Jack Ocobock is a threat in the passing game, as well as being an outstanding defensive back. He picked off three passes against Elk Rapids and returned one 100 yards to the house.

The counter play has been a game-breaker for Kingsley. The Stags running game is convoyed by a beefy offensive line.

"They score a lot of points," Hofer noted. "They're very capable offensively."

R.J. Kerr is capable of hitting field goals from 30 to 35 yards out.

The Maroon single wing hopes to build on its offensive explosion against Marinette against a Stags' defense that has been ripped for 31.1 points per game.

The Maroons have their swagger back after the breakout effort against the Marines.

"Emotion and confidence is a big key," said Hofer. "When you believe in yourself and your team, good things happen for you."

Hofer lauded the work of assistant coaches Jamie Schomer, "Satch" Englund and Joe Noha for their preparation in the M&M Game.

The Maroons' first-line defense didn't allow a touchdown from scrimmage while shutting down the Marinette ground game and air game. The offensive line opened up gaping holes and did a superb job of pass protection.

Menominee rushed for a season-best 285 yards against Marinette and completed 10 of 12 passes for a season-high 219 yards.

"If we carry the momentum from the M&M Game into this game that will help us have success in the playoffs," said Hofer. "The key is to continue to do what we did in the M&M Game. We know everything isn't going to click that well, but if we're aggressive and go after it like we did in the M&M Game, we should be successful."

The Maroons (5-3) rushed for 200 yards in a 40-14 win at Kingsley last season.