Priming the playoff pump
Maroons chase Gremlins from Walton Blesch
Sunday, November 03, 2013 6:00 PM
MENOMINEE - Houghton crashed head on into 120 years of Menominee football tradition and 48 minutes of Maroon shock and awe Saturday afternoon at Walton Blesch Field.
Menominee’s Devon Harris breaks through two Houghton tacklers in the first half of Saturday’s playoff game at Walton Blesch Field. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
Twelve plays into their Division 5 pre-district playoff game, the Maroons had a 35-0 lead over the Gremlins en route to a 63-6 rout.
"They are as advertised," Houghton coach Karl Borree said of the unbeaten and top-ranked Maroons. "All three of their running backs had a dominant game and they were dominant up front.
"Our kids have never experienced that kind of athleticism. We were outplayed, outcoached and outskilled."
Borree agreed to start the running clock late in the second quarter after Menominee scored on its first five possessions. Houghton didn't register a first down until seven minutes into the third quarter with the Maroons up 56-0.
"Everyone was undefeated going into today," Menominee coach Joe Noha said. "We played like we're undefeated today. A great team effort. The offense, defense and special teams were all on it."
As if the Gremlins didn't face long enough odds heading into the game, Friday night's Division 5 results just sharpened the Maroons' intensity. Second-ranked Portland and unbeaten Jackson Lumen Christi were both knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
"We had a lot of confidence but you can never tell," tailback Justin Brilinski explained. "Look what happened to Lumen Christi last night. That could happen to us."
Menominee scored the first time it touched the ball when the right side of the Maroon line wiped out the Gremlins' pursuit and Brilinski sprinted 32 yards untouched to the end zone.
Devon Harris, showing more swerves and spins than a Tilt-A-Whirl, grabbed a punt and tore through Houghton for a 62-yard TD return 2 1/2 minutes later. Evan Pohlman broke his own record for extra points in a season with his 54th PAT.
A 13-yard pass from Brilinski to Harris and James Brown's 25-yard jaunt while shedding tackles with a stiff-arm, set up Brown's 2-yard score with 4:57 left in the first quarter.
After the Maroon defense forced the fourth straight three-and-out, the Brilinski-to-Harris combination clicked again for a 12-yard gain. Menominee went backwards 15 yards after a fumble, but Harris put the Maroons back into the fast-forward mode again with a 23-yard scoring dash. Pohlmann's PAT pumped the lead to 28-0 with a minute left in the first quarter.
A shanked 10-yard punt gave the Maroons the ball at the Gremlins' 25. Menominee struck for six more on first down when Harris fired a 25-yard scoring pass to Tyler Howell with 22 seconds left in the first quarter.
"Every time they touched the ball they were going to score," said Borree. "Our goal all year has been to get better every game. Today we didn't get better. We fumbled the ball and we had penalties we never have."
After Aeron Forsberg blocked a punt, Menominee was pounding on the door again when the Gremlins' John Kirk pounced on a tumbling fumble at the Maroon 40.
Ben Collaer lofted a perfect lead pass to Tristan Foltz for a 36-yard scoring strike, but a false-start flag wiped out the touchdown.
Ryne Francour swiped a pass on the next play and Brown busted through the Gremlins for a 79-yard touchdown with 5:24 left in the half.
It took the Maroons just two plays on their next series to jack the margin to 49-0. Devon Barley blasted through for a 26-yard run, lunging to the 1 after being hit at the 4. Brown showed off his vertical lift with a leap to the goal line on the next play. Pohlmann's seventh PAT stretched the lead to 49-0 with 1:12 left in the half.
Harris added a defensive gem to his electric running when he closed out the half with a leaping interception.
Four plays into the third quarter the Maroons were back in the end zone on a 47-yard sprint by Brilinski through a gaping hole off left tackle.
"This team remains very hungry," Noha said. "As long as we stay hungry and focused and the execution remains, we're going to be in the hunt."
The Gremlins smashed the goose egg with a 12-play 78-yard march. A 17-yard pass from Collaer to Cole Jepsen sparked the drive and Foltz pulled in a 9-yard pass from Collaer in the middle of the end zone 17 seconds into the fourth quarter.
"It was a good experience for us to see the storied Menominee program," said Borree. "That's what we want to become."
The Maroons' second wave of offensive firepower added the final touchdown. An 11-yard run by Colin Nerat and 13-yard gain by Devon Barley set up Barley's 11-yard TD run, climaxed by him wiping out a defender at the goal line.
"Everybody got to play. It was a great effort," Noha said. "It's a testament to how we played as a team."
Pohlmann's ninth PAT of the game broke his own school record of eight set against Gladstone this season and also set a U.P. record for consecutive extra point kicks in a game. Pohlmann's 61 PATs on the season is also a U.P. record.
"The pressure is all on the team," said Pohlmann of his record-setting day. "If we keep scoring we keep knocking them through. It's a team record. Records are nice, but the success we're having is what makes it all worth it."
The Maroons (10-0) play host to Grayling (9-1) Saturday at 1 p.m. The Vikings defeated Kingsford 42-25 Saturday.
Menominee 63, Houghton 6
Houghton 0 0 0 6 - 6
Menominee 35 14 7 7 - 63
Men - Justin Brilinski 32 run. Evan Pohlmann kick
Men - Devon Harris 62 punt return. Pohlmann kick
Men - James Brown 2 run. Pohlmann kick
Men - Harris 23 run. Pohlmann kick
Men - Tyler Howell 25 pass from Brilinski. Pohlmann kick
Men - Brown 79 run. Pohlmann kick
Men - Brown 1 run. Pohlmann kick
Men - Brilinski 47 run. Pohlmann kick
Hou - Tristan Foltz 9 pass from Ben Collaer. Run failed
Men - Devon Barley 11 run. Pohlmann kick
RUSHING - Menominee 25-353 yards (Brilinski 5-115 2TDs; Brown 7-105 3 TDs; Harris 3-47 TD; Barley 5-63 TD; Colin Nerat 3-22) Houghton 29-105 yards (Thomas Schmidt 14-58; Collaer 14-29; Jonathan Bostwick 1-18)
PASSING: Menominee 5-6-62 (Brilinski 3-4-29; Harris 2-2-33 TD) Houghton (Collaer 3-12-27 TD 2 INTs)
RECEIVING: Menominee (Harris 2-25; Howell 1-25 RD; Brown 1-4; Barley 1-8) Houghton (Cole Jepsen 1-17; Foltz 1-9 TD; Bethancourt 1-1)By TOM KAESER
EagleHerald assistant sports editor
MENOMINEE - It wasn't just Menominee's overwhelming performance on offense, defense and special teams that impressed Houghton coach Karl Borree during Saturday's Division 5 pre-district playoff game.
"What an experience for our kids to see what the storied Menominee program is all about," said Borree. "They're first class. They were well-mannered. They weren't cheap."
n The Maroons' triple-decker ground-pounder running game of Justin Brilinski, James Brown and Devon Harris averaged 17.9 yards per carry and passed the 2,100-yard mark for the season in Saturday's victory.
Unofficially, Brilinski had 115 yards on just five carries and Brown gained 105 yards on seven carries.
"Our blocking was great all day," said Brilinski.
Menominee had to come up with a punt coverage scheme on the fly because the Gremlins didn't punt in the three games the coaches had on film.
The Maroons put pressure on the punter and the Gremlins averaged just 14 yards on their first six punts - including a block punt by Aeron Forsberg and a 62-yard punt return by Devon Harris.
The Maroons' next opponent, Grayling, rolled up more than 600 yards in its 42-25 win over Kingsford Saturday.
Senior receiver Kyle McClanahan had 10 catches for 191 yards and three touchdowns, quarterback Jake Swander completed 18 of 36 passes for 263 yards and running backs Kevin Harris and Michael Branch combined for 307 yards.
The Maroons defeated the Vikings 63-22 in the 2011 district title game and 60-16 in the 2010 district title game.
Defending Division 5 state champion Portland lost to Grand Rapids West Cathlolic (6-4) 27-14 in a rematch of last year's state title game. Portland was ranked second in the state in Division 5 behind Menominee.
Previously unbeaten Clinton Township was also knocked out of the playoffs in a 42-34 loss to Detroit University Prep. Clinton was ranked ninth in the final Division 5 state poll.
Menominee, fourth-ranked Reed City and No. 6 Livonia Clarenceville are the unbeaten Division 5 teams.