Eskymos rally, top Braves
GLADSTONE — On a night when it was tough to run the football, the Escanaba Eskymos went to Collin Arnt in short-yardage situations here Friday night.
The senior running back delivered in the clutch, helping the Eskymos secure a 20-12 triumph over the Gladstone Braves in their homecoming game.
Arnt not only scored his first varsity touchdown in this Great Northern Conference match-up but sealed the verdict with a nine-yard to the Braves’ 40-yard line late in the regular-season finale.
“The hole was there,” said Arnt. “We had great blocking by our lineman, and I went through. I felt confident I could get there in short-yardage situations. The field was super slippery. It was hard to get your footing.”
Esky was trailing 12-0 until Arnt scored on a one-yard run up the middle one minute, 24 seconds before halftime, putting the finishing touches to a 19-play drive, which consumed 9 1/2 minutes.
Arnt’s TD was set up two plays earlier on senior quarterback Brandon Frazer’s 17-yard pass through the middle to senior wide receiver Anthony Seymour inside the one-yard line on a fourth-down play.
“That was a great high school play,” said Esky coach Dave Howes. “Going into the second half it felt like we had some nice rhythm going with our passing game.
“We made a few adjustments with our blocking and gave Brandon a little more time to pass in the second half.
“I think Collin is one of the toughest kids on our team. He’s not the biggest kid, but has the biggest heart. He’s going to get the tough yards for us.”
After receiving the second-half kickoff, the Eskymos needed just two plays to cover 63 yards.
Arnt ran 10 yards on the first play, and Frazer fired a 53-yard TD aerial to senior wide receiver Tyler Lawson for a 14-12 lead.
After the Braves went three-and-out, the Eskymos extended their lead to eight points on Frazer’s 14-yard pass to Lawson.
“Oh my gosh, that hurt,” said Braves’ coach Jeff Hansen. “Physically, I thought our players were real good on the line. Our running game was doing well in the first three possessions. Two went for scores, then one ended on intentional grounding. We need to play cleaner fundamental football, especially in critical situations.”
The Braves marched 65 yards in 10 plays on their first drive, taking a 6-0 lead on a one-yard run up the middle by senior running back Blake Servant.
Senior running back Ryan Polley then gave the Braves a 12-0 lead on a four-yard run through the left side just five seconds into the second stanza.
Esky outgained Gladstone 234-172 in total offense. Frazer was 14-of-24 passing for 179 yards. Lawson snagged four passes for 118, and Arnt was Esky’s leading rusher with 26 yards on nine carries.
“We just spread things out,” said Howes. “They were focusing on Bryant Maki and tried to establish the run, but our field position was bad in the first half. We couldn’t run the ball very well. The sloppy field hindered both teams.”
Gladstone rushed for 98 yards with Polley gaining 67 on 16 carries. Kelly hit 6-of -17 aerials for 43 yards and two interceptions and was sacked five times.
“Defensively, I thought we played good the entire game,” said Hansen. “Frazer is a very accurate passer. I thought Escanaba was good in critical situations, and we made just enough mistakes to give them those opportunities.”
Both teams will learn their playoff fate Sunday when the Michigan High School Athletic Association announces the pairings.
The Eskymos figure to open at Sault Ste. Marie, Ludington or Alma and the Braves will likely host Houghton next weekend.
Escanaba 0 8 12 0 — 20
Gladstone 6 6 0 0 — 12
G — Servant, one-yard run (run failed), 7:23
G — Polley, four-yard run (pass failed), 11:55
E — Arnt, one-yard run (Frazer pass to Maki), 1:24
E — Frazer, 53-yard pass to Lawson (pass failed), 11:31
E — Frazer, 14-yard pass to Lawson (kick failed), 6:39