Braves topple Kingsford
GLADSTONE — None of Gladstone’s varsity football players are old enough to remember the last time the Braves had defeated Kingsford.
This year’s Braves created some memories of their own here Thursday in a 34-20 triumph over Kingsford, marking their first victory over the Flivvers since 1998.
Senior Tyler Darmogray all but sealed the verdict on a 63-yard interception return for a two-score cushion with four minutes, 12 seconds remaining in this hard-hitting Great Northern Conference opener on Parents’ Night.
“This is very, very exciting,” said senior running back Cole Potier. “They’ve always been good. This is definitely one of the hardest games of the year. Our team works very hard. We were ready.”
The Flivvers had one more chance, but that opportunity vanished with 2:26 left to play when junior Drake Johnson recovered a fumble on the Braves’ 42-yard line.
Gladstone finished with four interceptions, including three by Darmogray.
“They were running some deep routes,” he said. “We knew they were going to pass. We just had to adjust to their passing game. We had to make sure we were behind their receivers all the time. Nic (Nora) and Cole (Myllyla) are very good players. They’re a real good team.”
Kingsford tied the contest at 20 on junior Eli Wallis’s 13-yard pass to junior Noah Peterson with 3:50 left in the third quarter.
The Braves regained the lead (28-20) on junior quarterback Nate Young’s 11-yard keeper around the left end just nine seconds into the fourth.
“Momentum changed in the fourth quarter,” said Braves coach Craig Ness. “Our conditioning took over. I thought we were the better team in the fourth quarter. When I looked at the guys’ faces, I knew, win or lose, we were going to be all right. Our defense was real good tonight, and Tyler had a great game. This was a long time coming, and it feels great. The kids were locked in.”
The Flivvers then maintained possession for less than three minutes as junior John Soderman swiped a pass at the Gladstone 37.
Junior running back Elizen Rouse gave the Flivvers a 7-0 lead on a two-yard run up the middle three minutes into the second stanza.
Gladstone pulled within 7-6 on a 21-yard run along the right sideline with 2:40 left in the second.
Kingsford made it 13-6 just 16 seconds later when Nora snagged a tipped pass for a 63-yard touchdown from Wallis.
The Braves answered quickly. Junior Kaden Gibbs returned the ensuing kickoff to Kingsford’s 16, and Potier brought them within 13-12 when Potier broke off left tackle for an 11-yard TD with 76 seconds remaining in the second frame.
Potier ran 22 times for 111 yards and two TDs. Young rushed for 75 yards and a TD and threw for another score.
“Their quarterback is a good player,” said Kingsford coach Mark Novara. “He’s physically and mentally strong. He played a heck of a football game. We had momentum after our second touchdown, then we gave up that big kickoff return and the momentum turned again. I thought we were still okay at halftime. We needed a stop, then they scored on that pass play (Young’s 61-yard aerial to Darmogray). We tied the game (20-20) and got a fumble, but the call didn’t go our way. That was a big point in the game.”
Wallis threw for three TDs and three interceptions. Myllyla carried 18 times for 81 yards, and Nora hauled in four passes for 103 yards, including an acrobatic catch near midfield.
“I thought Braden (Sundquist) was playing good defense, but Nic made a great play,” said Ness. “Cole has real good speed. We didn’t want to let him get outside. They had some success with their passing game, and we made some adjustments at halftime.”
The Braves, who will be road warriors for the next four weeks, visit Menominee Friday.
The Flivvers host Wausau, Wis. West Friday.