Tue, 01/12/2021 - 12:07pm caleb
Football team resumes playoff run after weeks of delays, defeats Negaunee Miners 56-26 on Saturday at Viking Stadium to clinch first ever regional title
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Grayling High School clinched its first ever regional championship in football on Saturday, defeating the Negaunee Miners 56-26 during a Michigan High School Athletic Association postseason game played at Viking Stadium.
The contest was originally supposed to be held in November, but epidemic order regulations from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services forced a suspension of fall sports playoffs, and it took almost two months to get teams back on the field for competition. A limited number of spectators were allowed at the stadium for the Grayling vs. Negaunee playoff game.
Negaunee kicked off to Grayling to start Saturday’s Division 6, Region 21 contest, and the Vikings started at their 40-yard line after a short return. On 1st and 10, Anthony Fisher rushed for 13 yards. David Millikin ran for 10 yards on the next play. On the third play of the series, Millikin rushed for a 37-yard touchdown. Eliot Boik kicked the extra point. Grayling, with 10:48 left in the first period, led 7-0.
Negaunee’s first series ended with a punt; it was a short one, and Grayling started at Negaunee’s 49-yard line after the kick.
Millikin ran for 13 yards on 1st and 10. Later, on 4th and 4, the Vikings went for it and Millikin gained five yards on a rushing play. Millikin ran for 23 yards on the next play. On 1st and goal, Millikin rushed for a two-yard TD. After the extra point kick by Boik, with 4:20 left in the first period, Grayling led 14-0.
The Miners drove 57 yards on 12 plays, capping the series with a one-yard TD on 2nd and goal. The extra point kick attempt was wide left. With 10:36 remaining in the second quarter, the Vikings had a 14-6 lead.
Grayling started its third drive of the afternoon at its 37-yard line. On the fourth play of the series – 4th and 4 – the Vikings lined up to punt, but they didn’t kick it. The punter, Dylan Cragg, caught the snap and ran for 15 yards, keeping the possession going. On the next play, Millikin broke a tackle with a spin move and got free for a 42-yard touchdown run. Boik kicked the extra point for Grayling.
With 8:39 left in the second period, the Vikings led 21-6.
Negaunee responded with a seven-play 51-yard scoring drive, finishing the possession with a 10-yard touchdown run. The Miners fumbled on the two-point conversion attempt and the play was unsuccessful. Grayling led 21-12 with 5:01 left in the first half.
Grayling’s next drive ended on downs. The resulting series for Negaunee ended with a punt.
At halftime, the score was Grayling 21, Negaunee 12.
The Vikings kicked off to the Miners to start the second half. The series ended with a punt on 4th and 7.
Grayling started at its 32-yard after the kick. A run by Fisher, plus 15 yards for a personal foul penalty on Negaunee, brought up 1st and 10 at the 49-yard line. Millikin ran for eight yards on first down. A pass from quarterback Hunter Ventline to Tayvion Hall gained 11 yards. After a two-yard run by Millikin, a pass from Ventline to Fisher picked up 12 yards. Later, on 3rd and 14, Ventline threw to Drew Kanary for a 22-yard touchdown. Boik kicked the extra point.
With 6:27 left in the third quarter, Grayling had a 28-12 advantage.
The Vikings stopped the Miners on a 4th and 2 rushing play, forcing a turnover on downs. Grayling took over at Negaunee’s 40-yard line. On the second play of the series – 2nd and 10 – Millikin got free for a 40-yard TD. The kick attempt failed on the conversion. With 2:08 left in the third quarter, the Vikings had a 34-12 advantage.
Negaunee – during the next possession – went for it on 4th and 4 with a passing play, and Millikin deflected the ball, ending the drive on downs.
The Vikings drove 44 yards on four plays, scoring on a 10-yard touchdown run by Ventline. After the extra point kick by Boik, with 9:58 left in the game, Grayling had a 41-12 lead.
Negaunee, after a kick return that featured two penalties on Grayling, started 24 yards from the end zone. On the sixth play of the series, the Miners scored with an eight-yard TD pass. They kicked the extra point. The Vikings, with 7:01 left in the regional championship contest, led 41-19.
Fisher returned Negaunee’s kickoff to Grayling’s 48-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Millikin scored on a 52-yard TD run. Boik kicked the extra point. With 6:45 left in regulation, the Vikings had a 48-19 advantage.
Negaunee drove 66 yards on 11 plays, scoring on a one-yard TD on 1st and goal. The Miners kicked the extra point, and with 2:15 left in the fourth quarter, Grayling led 48-26.
Fisher returned Negaunee’s kickoff for a touchdown. The Vikings lined up to kick the extra point but a high snap forced the holder (Millikin) to run with the ball and he got into the end zone for two points. Grayling led 56-26 with 2:04 left in the game.
Negaunee ran the ball three times, ending the contest.
The Vikings won by a final score of 56-26.
“Incredible performance by our kids Saturday,” Coach Eric Tunney said. “We knew Negaunee wanted to be physical with us and we had to match the physicality. Give credit to them, they knocked us off the ball at times and pounded the run game, but our kids adapted and started firing out as we got more into the game. I love the way our kids fight and attack.”
According to the team, Millikin finished the game with 257 rushing yards and five TDs. Ventline threw for 58 yards and rushed for 25 yards; he had one passing TD and one rushing TD. Kanary had 30 receiving yards and one TD. On defense, Millikin had 11 solo tackles, Fisher had seven tackles, Kanary had six tackles, Reid Cvitkovich had four tackles, and Sparty Skillern had three tackles.
“Offensively, our O-line made some nice holes for David and he’s hard to bring down once he’s through that first row. We have some big boys that can move well. I thought our wide receivers did an excellent job blocking down field to make some of those long TD runs go. It’s easy to see David score those long runs but not everyone sees Dylan, Drew, Fish, and Tay blocking 20 yards down field,” Coach Tunney said.
After the game, Viking players escorted Coach Don Ferguson from the sideline to the stadium’s victory bell to celebrate the win. The field at Viking Stadium is named in honor of Ferguson, a former coach of the program. Ferguson also spoke to the squad after the celebration.
“It was a great team win, an entire school win, and a community wide win. I know a lot of people put a lot of hard work and time into just making this game even possible and I hope everyone involved takes a little pride in it,” Coach Tunney said. “Having Coach Ferguson on the sidelines, seeing him ring the victory bell, and address the team standing on the field named after him was something special. He’s a good ol’ boy and our kids respect him as do many others. Couldn’t be happier for the kids, our school, and all of Viking Nation.”
According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, Grayling (7-3 overall) will play at Montague (10-0 overall) in the Division 6 state semifinal round at 1 p.m. on Saturday, January 16.