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Braves fall to Maroons

Brian Bell | EagleHerald Gladstone’s Ryan Polley shakes off tackles from Menominee’s Brody Waara (14) and Hunter Shepeck (12) during Friday night’s loss to the Maroons at Walton Blesch Field in Menominee.

MENOMINEE — A second-quarter explosion gave Menominee a huge lead, and the Maroons hung on in the second half for a big win over Gladstone in a Great Northern Conference matchup with playoff implications.

Every team in the U.P. makes the playoffs this year, but with Menominee and Gladstone both near the top in Division 6, the winner of this game is likely to be chosen to host a playoff game, and Menominee answered the call.

A 2-yard touchdown run from Aidan Bellisle kicked off the scoring on a 12-play, 65-yard drive that took up almost six minutes on the first drive of the game, and after both teams went scoreless the remainder of the first is when the Maroons’ got hot.

Four touchdowns in the second quarter gave Menominee a 34-0 lead at halftime, and one final score in the third gave the Maroons a 41-0 victory and helped all but lock up the No. 1 seed and a home playoff game.

“I thought our kids played very hard and fundamentally sound,” Menominee coach Jamie Schomer said. “We started the week having captains and I think that really helped solidify the group, and the kids were just ready to play. We talked about the playoffs and the importance of the game, and then we had the seniors stand up before we came and had them talk about what it’s like to be a Maroon, and I think that fired the kids up.”

The Maroons received the opening kickoff and started feeding Bellisle early and often, giving him nine touches out of 12 plays, and he answered with 60 yards and a touchdown to put Menominee up 6-0.

On Gladstone’s first drive, penalty problems started as the Braves were flagged for two 15-yard penalties on the drive, and it ended with the first of five turnover-on-downs of the game.

After both teams traded possessions, Menominee got on the board again when Jon Spegel bolted up the middle for a 26-yard touchdown scamper and Joe Romero-Haire completed the 2-point conversion pass to Brody Waara to go up 14-0 with 8:28 left in the second.

“I think they were better than us up front,” Gladstone coach Jeff Hansen said. “I think their front dominated ours, and that was pretty much the story of the game.

“We weren’t able to stack positive plays. It was like two steps forward and three steps back.”

A Gladstone punt led to another Menominee score on another 2-yard run from Bellisle that was set up by a 30-yard pass from Romero-Haire to Spegel down to Gladstone’s 8-yard line.

Menominee’s defense was stout all game, allowing just 90 yards of total offense in the first half (90 rushing, 0 passing) and did more of the same in the second half with the game already well out of reach.

“Our goal was to make a wall up front. We knew (Gladstone) was going to come right at us, and that being said our defense held up well,” Schomer said.

After forcing another Gladstone punt, all it took was two plays for Menominee to score again.

Romero-Haire dropped back to pass and rolled to his right, and as he was doing that Brady Schultz was streaking down the field. Romero-Haire had to weave in and out of a couple of Gladstone defenders before finding the room to launch one up in the endzone to Schultz who pulled it down over two defenders for a 37-yard touchdown pitch-and-catch to go up 28-0 with 40.5 seconds left, but the Maroons weren’t done yet.

On what looked like it would be the last possession before the half, Gladstone tried to air it out and gain a chunk of yards, but Bellisle read a pass and jumped the route for an interception that he returned down to Gladstone’s 29 with just over 20 seconds left.

Menominee, who had success running the football all night, decided to go through the air themselves, and Romero-Haire tossed a perfect swing pass over the head of a Gladstone defender into the hands of Bellisle. He did the rest as he juked a defender out and dove across the line for the 34th point of the half and his third touchdown of the half.

Bellisle was the workhorse for Menominee in the first half, getting 19 carries and gaining 97 yards along with two touchdowns and also had one catch for 29 yards and a score. He finished the game with 24 carries for 121 yards and the two scores.

The running clock started with just over a minute left in the third when Romero-Haire scrambled into the endzone from two yards out to make it 41-0.

Gladstone’s best chance to score came in the third quarter when a drive started at its own 37.

Kelly started off the drive with a 16-yard run to Menominee’s side of the field, and a seven-yard run from Blake Servant and a 17-yarder from Ryan Polley got Gladstone down to Menominee’s 23.

Two more runs of nine and eight yards from Servant and Polley set the Braves up at the six, but on second and goal from the five, Gladstone was flagged for a personal foul that backed them up 15 yards to Menominee’s 18.

“Ryan Polley really ran the ball well tonight for us,” Hansen said. “His runs were hard earned, and when we had positive plays it was mostly thanks to him and Cam Kelly.

“Hunter Potier did a good job for us (as well). He was probably our most dominant player. He was constantly in Menominee’s backfield.”

Romero-Haire completed 3-of-7 passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns.

For Gladstone, Ryan Polley carried it 12 times for 95 yards, Kelly had 14 touches for 73 yards and Blake Servant had seven rushes for 46 yards.

“We just flat out got beat,” Hansen said. “Menominee came out and beat us, but we have to come back Monday ready to go.

“We’re certainly not going to feel sorry for ourselves. There’s a lot for us to play for going forward, and we’re definitely going to get back to work.”

Gladstone hosts Escanaba Friday in the regular season finale.

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