Gladstone held off by SSM
GLADSTONE — Cole Hawker’s right foot made a difference here Friday night as the Sault Ste. Marie Blue Devils squeezed past the Gladstone Braves 15-14 in a non-conference football game.
Hawker kicked three field goals, including one from 27-yards with 31.1 seconds left in the contest.
The Braves, despite finishing the regular season 4-5, will be in the post-season based on strength of schedule.
“We’re a Division 6 school playing D-3 schools,” said Braves coach Jeff Hansen. “We had three one-point losses, but all those were top-five opponents. We knew we had enough playoff points to get in even with a loss. We just wanted to play our tails off and get one more win at home for our seniors. It was a well-played game both ways.”
Hawker’s last field goal was set up on senior Jakob Davie’s 37-yard pass to Jonah Denucccio, which got the Blue Devils (6-3) to the Braves’ eight-yard line.
“No way did I think it would boil down to this,” said Hawker. “It’s amazing. It got a little scary in the end, though. I’m not sure we’ll get into the playoffs, but hopefully, we will. This is a good win either way. We’re happy with our season.”
Sophomore Eliot Vitito’s kickoff return enabled the Braves to begin their last possession on their 37.
Classmate Nate Young then heaved a 28-yard pass to Vitito, giving them possession at the Sault 35.
The Braves, however, were unable to complete the drive.
“Our defense did a great job,” said Sault coach Scott Menard. “I think Gladstone is going to be good for a few years. Their defensive unit is strong. We did the things we had to do to get the win. Six and three against any schedule is a good record. If it doesn’t work out (for playoffs), we still had a good season. This is a good win for our seniors and underclassmen.”
Hawker booted field goals of 26 and 27 yards to give the Blue Devils a 6-0 halftime lead.
The Braves quickly tied the score in the third quarter, covering 66 yards on six plays resulting in an eight-yard touchdown pass from Young to senior split end Caden Downey.
Gladstone then extended its lead to 14-6 on junior Cole Potier’s six-yard run around left end with three minutes, 58 seconds left in the third.
Sault then trimmed its deficit to 14-12 on Davie’s 13-yard aerial to sophomore Joseph Gravelle in the left corner of the endzone on the last play of the third stanza.
The Braves had a chance to extend their lead in the fourth before senior John Robinson’s interception in the endzone ended the threat at 7:37.
“We felt we had the momentum at halftime,” said Menard. “Credit to Gladstone. They came out after the half and put up 14 points right away. The interception in the endzone gave us a chance.”
The Blue Devils finished with a 297-288 edge in total offense. Senior Ryan Laplaunt ran 13 times for 105 yards, and Robinson had 68 on 19 carries. Davies was 10-of-15 passing for 124.
Gladstone collected 115 yards on the ground, with Potier gaining 77 on 15 carries. Young hit 11-of-17 aerials for 139 yards, and sophomore Eli Berthaume completed a 34-yard flea-flicker to senior John Hansen.
“We had to air things out in the second half,” said coach Hansen. “Their long pass before the winning field goal was a phenomenal play by their quarterback. We told the kids they had nothing to hang their heads about.”