On to semis

Esky stings Hornets for regional crown

Avery Bundgaard | Daily Press Escanaba’s Tyler Cook (left) and Hayden Haslow (right) tackle Williamston’s Evan Field Friday during the Division 4 regional final at Escanaba.

ESCANABA — Senior fullback-linebacker Cody Vandermissen didn’t mind the low 20s temperature and snow flurries Friday night at Escanaba Athletic Field.

It was just the kind of weather best suited for Esky’s power football attack en route to a convincing 39-21 Division 4 regional championship victory against Williamston.

“U.P. power — that’s our football,” Vandermissen said after Esky received the regional trophy, the first since 1981. “Smash-mouth football. I love this.

“We just wore down the clock. If their offense wasn’t on the field, they can’t win. That was our strategy. And we did it.”

It was Esky’s power football style against Williamston’s no-huddle spread finesse attack and the Eskymos definitely won out.

Avery Bundgaard | Daily Press Escanaba coach Dave Howes (right) talks with his quarterback Craig Kamin before a play during the Division 4 regional final against Williamston Friday at Escanaba.

Esky (10-2) won the time of possession decisively and piled up 349 rushing yards — led by Logan Carroll’s 161 yards and two touchdowns and Scout Wunder’s 122 yards and two scores.

“That’s what we planned all week, finesse vs. getting run at.” Esky coach Dave Howes said.

“I don’t think they’ve been run at all year like we do it and that’s what we did. It was textbook assignment football and the kids did it very well.”

The win sends Esky into next Saturday’s state semifinals to face defending state champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central at a site to be determined. The Cougars ended Esky’s season last year in the regional championship game.

Esky led 25-7 at halftime Friday night, then took total control in the third quarter. The Eskymos took the first kickoff and marched 50 yards in 12 plays, using up 7:12. Carroll capped the drive with a 6-yard run.

Avery Bundgaard | Daily Press Escanaba’s Cody Vandermissen (44) tackles a Williamston ballcarrier while Williamston’s Jackson Pollak (3) piles on top Friday during the Division 4 regional final at Escanaba.

Esky then executed an onside kick, with Hayden Haslow recovering. Four plays later, quarterback Craig Kamin tossed a 15-yard TD pass to Ryan Robinette as Esky extended the lead to 39-7.

Williamston (7-5) added a late touchdown as quarterback Jackson Pollak threw a 15-yard TD pass to Max Grace with 31 seconds remaining. Austin Stiffler also threw an 11-yard TD pass to Toomey in the third quarter after Pollak had left the field shaken up.

Williamston coach Steve Kersten admitted the weather favored Esky’s style and his team didn’t have an answer.

“They are a very good power football team and they took it to us,” Kersten said. “We knew we had to score points tonight and we didn’t score points. It’s tough to play from behind in cold weather. Hats off to them. They played a great game. They are tough kids. It’s a nice backfield they put back there.

“We see power football,” Kersten added. “Portland plays power football. Tonight, we didn’t do what we had to do to get it done and Escanaba did. Hats off to them.”

Esky kept the ball out of the hands of the highly-touted Pollak, who put up huge numbers running Williamston’s offense this season. The Eskymos limited him to 19 yards rushing, while he completed 16-of-29 passes for 215 yards and two TDs.

“We wanted to keep the ball out of their hands,” Howes said. “We had the ball pretty much the whole third quarter. We established the run game and we wore them down. They

are not a very patient team. They want the big ball and we didn’t let them get the big play tonight.”

In the first quarter, Esky scored first on a 14-yard TD pass from Kamin to Robinette for a 6-0 lead. Williamston answered on Pollak’s 13 yard TD pass to Frankie Toomey for a 7-6 lead.

Kamin completed 5-of-7 passes for 74 yards and a pair of TDs. Robinette also had an interception in the fourth quarter.

Esky took control in the second quarter and outscored the Hornets 19-0 on Carroll’s 62-yard TD run and a pair of TD runs from Wunder from 7- and 42 yards as the Eskymos built their 25-7 halftime advantage.

Kersten said the Hornets wanted to play the game on Friday to keep the same season routine of getting on a bus, playing the game and returning home afterward.

“(The weather) hurt us,” Kersten said. “It’s a great venue here. I’m very proud of our kids for the journey and a great run. Escanaba people were great.”

Esky will turn its attention to GRCC, which is a Division 4 powerhouse.

“It’s a good rematch and we need to get them back,” Howes said. “They are a very good team, but we are playing well right now. We are ready.”

Added Vandermissen: “We are just trying to make history. We are such a close team and we just have to keep it rolling. It’s another hard week of practice we have something coming for them.”

The summary

Williamston 7 0 8 6 — 21

Escanaba 6 19 14 0 — 39

First quarter

E – Kamin 14 pass to Robinette, PAT kick failed, 4:33

W – Pollak 13 pass to Toomey, Plaxton PAT kick, 2:25

Second quarter

E – Wunder 7 run, PAT pass failed, 11:49

E – Carroll 62 run, Carne PAT kick, 9:06

E – Wunder 42 run, kick failed, 3:18

Third quarter

E – Carroll 6 run, Carne PAT kick, 4:48

E – Kamin 15 pass to Robinette, Carne PAT kick, 3:37

W -Stiffler 11 pass to Toomey, Stiffler PAT run, :29

Fourth quarter

W – Pollak 14 pass to Grace, PAT run failed, :31