Broncos fall to Gremlins’ late rally
HARRIS — Opportunity knocked for Bark River-Harris, but it was Houghton who survived a wild finish in a 21-20 football triumph over the Broncos here Saturday.
The Gremlins lined up in punt formation in the final nine seconds of this non-conference match-up before a high snap from center sailed over senior Reid Heathman’s head and sent both teams scrambling for the ball.
Heathman then scooped up the ball and returned it to the 50 as time expired, enabling the Gremlins to secure their first road victory in two years.
“It got way too exciting in the end,” said Houghton coach Micah Stipech. “My heart’s still in my stomach. We’re happy with the win. Only, I wish it wouldn’t have ended this way. Although, people got their money’s worth today.”
Houghton senior Blake Willey set the stage for the nail-biting finish by intercepting a pass at the Broncos’ 34 with 65 seconds left to play.
The Broncos then used their final two time-outs, trying to conserve the clock in hope of getting their hands on the ball one more time.
That, however, didn’t happen as the Gremlins ran out the clock and improved to 3-1. The Broncos fell to 3-1 on this sunny and mild afternoon.
Houghton tied the game at 20 on junior Camden Markham’s 16-yard pass through the middle to junior Gaborik Carlson, and senior Raymond Shaw provided the extra point with 2:36 left to play.
The Broncos started their final possession on their own 15 and moved the ball to near midfield prior to the interception.
“We had them on the ropes, but they had athletes making plays,” said BR-H coach Al Stenberg. “The ending was crazy, although it was a good game. We played hard from beginning to end. We told the kids they had nothing to hang their heads about. We had fun playing the game, and we like playing good opponents.”
BR-H took a 20-7 lead on a four-yard run up the middle by junior Vincent Martin with 3:47 left in the third quarter.
The Gremlins were on the move in their next possession until junior Corbin LaFave recovered a fumble on a botched pitch-out at the Broncos’ 35.
Houghton trimmed its deficit to 20-14 on Markham’s 28-yard aerial through the middle to senior Kade Farrell with 8:43 left in the contest.
The Broncos’ next possession resulted in an interception by Carlson at the Gremlins’ 40, setting the stage for the game-winning drive.
“I’m impressed with their team,” said Stipech. “Their coaches came up with a great game plan. Our defense is what kept us in the game against Iron Mountain (in a 21-14 victory Sept. 11), and they played well again today. One thing is we didn’t get any breaks or bounces, although we need to learn to play a full game.”
The Broncos opened the scoring on Martin’s 38-yard dash along the left sideline with 6:59 left in the opening frame.
Houghton answered on its next possession, taking a 7-6 lead on senior Kaiden Zapolnik’s four-yard run through the middle at 2:59.
BR-H regained the lead at 12-7 on senior Trevor Lippens’ eight-yard run around left end 71 seconds into the second stanza.
Houghton got within five yards of the end zone on its next possession before Broncos’ sophomore Ben Shiverski intercepted a pass in the end zone and return it to their 20.
“Defensively, we played pretty well,” said Stenberg. “We had the physical advantage in the first half. Then they had it from the middle of the third quarter on.”
The Broncos then attempted to add to their lead before Heathman came up with an interception at the Gremlins’ 31 less than a minute before the intermission.
BR-H rushed for 289 of its 299 yards. Martin led the way with 101 on 14 carries, and senior Trevor Lippens ran 13 times for 89. Sophomore Ethan Ives hit 2-of-10 passes for 10 yards and four interceptions.
Houghton finished with 255 yards. Zapolnik rushed 25 times for 96, and Markham completed 7-of-14 aerials for 117.
The Broncos host Iron Mountain in a WestPAC Conference Iron Division contest Friday. The Gremlins host Hancock in the Copper Bowl Friday.
“We’re looking forward to playing them,” said Stenberg. “They have a good program and coaching staff.”