by Richard Lamb
Two teams on a roll will be going at each other Friday at Gilpin Memorial Field in Rogers City. Following Rogers City’s 42-0 win over Brimley (0-2) and Onaway’s 73-0 dismantling of Bellaire (0-2) the two cross-county rivals will meet on the gridiron for the first time since 2013. It will be the 51st meeting of the teams since 1950 with the Hurons holding a 32-16-2 record against the Cardinals.
Each team has break-away talent and stingy defenses that should make it an interesting game to watch.
Last Friday against the Brimley Bays, the Hurons had 412 total yards to Brimley’s 115 in a powerful performance in the second-ever meeting between the two schools. The teams last met in 1997 during Rogers City’s 11-1 season that ended up in the state semifinals with a loss to eventual state champion Muskegon Oakridge. The 48-0 win of October 4, 1997 was the second of three shutouts in a row for Rogers City and one of five shutouts for the Hurons that season.
Brimley’s first trip to Rogers City last Friday didn’t go much better for them. Junior running back Hayden Hentkowski saw to that with a four-touchdown performance. Three came on passes from junior quarterback Spencer Whitford and one on a dazzling 14-yard shake and bake run down the right sideline. On the touchdown run that came with 2:08 left in the game, Hentkowski slipped by the defensive tackle then made three other would-be tacklers miss before he raced to the right corner of the end zone for the score.
The first score of the game came at the end of a four-play drive that covered 65 yards. Senior halfback Dillon Cook gained 6 yards on a run and Whitford kept the ball on an option right that went for 20 yards. Hentkowski’s run on first down gained only 1 yard. That set up Whitford’s 38-yard strike down the middle to an open Hentkowski who beat the safety for a touchdown.
The pair hooked up again on the next possession. An apparent 30-yard touchdown run by Cook came back on a holding penalty, but three plays later the Hurons scored. Whitford and Hentkowski connected on a 31-yard pass with 8:33 left in the first quarter.
Cook had another apparent 30-yard touchdown run called back on a penalty. That drive ended on an interception on the next play. Cook ran into bad luck on a drive late in the second quarter as a third 30-yard run came back due to a penalty. This time the Hurons recovered after an 11-yard run by Anthony Paull and Cook capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. Whitford hit Caden Brege in the left corner for the two-pointer for a 22-0 lead.
Then the Hurons’ defense went to work. Cook made two tackles for losses, forcing a punt on fourth-and-12. On the first play from scrimmage, Whitford found Hentkowski in the middle of the field and he raced to the end zone for a 65-yard scoring play. Rogers City led 28-0 at halftime.
The Hurons started the third quarter like they ended the second, with tough defense and an attacking offense. Facing constant pressure from the hard-rushing defensive line all night of Paull, Dylan LaFleche and Gus Bellmore, the Brimley quarterback had a tough day. LaFleche’s sack on third down forced a Brimley punt. But the Hurons could not score in the third quarter.
That scoreless drought ended quickly in the fourth quarter. A botched punt snap gave the Hurons the ball at the Brimley 5 yard-line. From there Paull carried three times capped by a 1-yard plunge for a touchdown. Cook ran in the conversion for a 36-0 lead.
A running clock at that point sped up the action before Hentkowski’s 14-yard run ended the scoring.
“These boys practiced hard this week and I’m not going to get in their way. They played extremely good football tonight,” said head coach Jesse Fenstermaker. “They blocked and they ran as hard as they could tonight.”
Defensively LaFleche led the team with nine tackles and four sacks while Cook added seven tackles and Paull and Hentkowski had six tackles each. Mason Bowden and Paull each recovered fumbles.
Cook rushed for 97 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown and Whitford had 74 yards on 11 carries. Hentkowski rushed for 69 yards on eight carries with a touchdown and Paull had four carries for 17 yards with a touchdown.
Whitford completed five passes on six attempts good for 155 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Hentkowski caught all five of Whitford’s completions.
Friday’s game with Onaway will be broadcast on 99.9 FM The Wave with Karl Grambau, Karl Momrik and Andy Grambau calling the action.