Tigers Secure Playoff Spot In Rivalry Game 32-19
Story and Photos by Alexis Mercer
Whenever the Grant Tiger and Newaygo Lion football teams face off, it is guaranteed to be intense. But when one or the other is hosting a homecoming game, the stakes rise to epic proportions. This was the case last night as the Lions (3-5) hosted the Tigers (6-2) in the last game the seniors will play on their home field.
Cars were parked on the grass, along streets and in every available spot for as far as the eye could see. Even though...
...Newaygo’s wins don’t match Grant’s, everyone knew both teams would be rising to the challenge and playing with everything they have to give.
The fans got everything they were hoping for in the battle of the M-37 teams from the start.
The Tigers received the ball to start the first half. They marched down the field with efficiency. Every play yielded 5-6 yards, while their offense was alternating three run plays to every one pass play. The Lions defense couldn’t stop the short gains and the Tigers scored to go up 6-0 with 8:13 left in the first quarter.
In the Lions first drive, it was much the opposite. The offense would gain nothing for three plays and then come up with a huge play for a first down. Cooper Heinzman ran twice for 11 yards a piece, putting the Lions into Tiger territory. But Grant’s defense held strong and #22, Daniel Atwood, broke up two consecutive passes to force the turnover.
First and 10 for Grant at the Lions’ 23 yard line and the offense comes up big with a 24 yard run. It looked as though Grant might start to run away with it, but a fumble recovered by the Lions’ #82, Jarred Heideman, on the Tigers’ 46 yard line got the crowd right back in.
Cooper Heinzman then caught a 21 yard pass and ran 15 yards for the Lions’ first touchdown of the night. The kick by #88, Brandon Verburg, was good, putting the Lions up 7-6 with 8:10 left in the 2nd quarter.
Grant attempted a few run plays, but the Lions defense held strong and the Tigers were forced to punt.
When the Lions got the ball back, it was the Tigers’ defense who stepped up, putting the Lions in a 4th and 14 situation. Grant’s Ian Francisco, #9, came up huge with a blocked punt, putting the striped cats on their 36 yard line.
It was looking as though the teams might head into the locker room with a touchdown a piece, but during a botched pass play, the Tigers quarterback, Trenton Throop, scrambled for a long run to put them on the 17 yard line with 18 seconds left. A penalty call against the Lions for roughing the passer saved the Tigers from another missed pass and the Tigers found themselves on the 6 yard line.
Throop’s pass to #11, Kyle Lowry, put 6 more points on the board for the Tigers. #54, Rylee Schultz, ran the ball for an attempted 2 point conversion, but the Lions stopped them. The teams headed into the locker room with the Tigers up 12-7.
After the royalty was crowned for Newaygo at halftime, the teams came out ready to rumble in the second half, but it proved to be all Grant from the start.
The Lions started out with the ball, but it was a 4 and out drive thanks to an aggressive and recharged Tigers defense.
Yard by yard, the Tigers marched down the field and scored with 5:44 left in the third.
It was an interception and return to their end zone for 6 points by Grant’s #4, Marco Alvarez, that seemed to completely silence the crowd and crush the spirit of the Lions.
Despite the tough start to the half, the Lions rallied for a productive drive. #10, Dalton Jones, passed to #32, Anthony Hudson, putting the Lions on the 16 yard line with 1:30 left in the 3rd quarter. As time ran out on the clock for the 3rd, the Lions progressed to the 1 yard line.
Newaygo scored 6 with 11:00 left in the final quarter.
Grant kept the pressure strong, however, and scored with 7:31 left in the game, putting the Tigers up 32-13.
With 4:25 left in the game, Newaygo’s Mathew Moore recovered a Grant fumble. The Lions were able to score once more on a pass to #82, Jarred Heideman, with 2:14 on the clock.
The final score was Grant Tigers 32, Newaygo Lions 19.
“I am proud of the way the kids played,” said Lion Head Coach Andy Busch. “ It is great to look into the stands and see the community supporting our players and school. I think they represented Newaygo well tonight even if we didn’t come out on top on the scoreboard.”
The trophy for the Battle of the M-37 teams was handed to a deserving Grant Tigers team, earning the title of champions until they face off again next year.
Grant will look to improve its record for the best possible playoff selection as they head to the home of the Ravenna Bulldogs to finish the regular season with a non-conference game.
Newaygo will play their final game of the season as they travel to Manistee (4-4) to face the Chippewas.