Vikings win Guardian Game 37-20 on Friday night at Kalkaska

Varsity football team from Grayling High School ends 2022 season with victory vs. Blazers
The varsity football team from Grayling High School ended its 2022 season with a 37-20 victory vs. the Kalkaska Blazers during the Guardian Game – an annual contest between the Vikings and the Blazers that features a traveling rivalry trophy and a salute to military members and first responders – at Kalkaska High School on Friday.
It was an eventful night; the contest featured four ejections by the officials, four recovered on-side kicks for Kalkaska in the second half, and a pick-six late in the game that helped clinch the win for Grayling.
Kalkaska fielded the game’s opening kickoff near its own goal line and returned the ball to the 42-yard line of the Blazers. After three rushing plays, Kalkaska went for it on 4th and 3 and Grayling tackled the ball carrier for a loss.
The Vikings took over on downs at Kalkaska’s 47-yard line. After a one-yard run on 1st and 10, Jake Huspen rushed for 15 yards. A personal foul penalty by Grayling on the next play brought up 1st and 25. The Vikings gained five yards with an offside penalty on the Blazers. On 3rd and 20, quarterback Ethan Kucharek completed a pass to Josh Aldrich, who pitched the ball back to Huspen; Huspen made it to the 15-yard line, picking up a first down for GHS. Aldrich rushed for a 15-yard TD on the next play. Corbin Allen ran the ball into the end zone for the two-point conversion. The officials ejected a Grayling player after the play.
Grayling led 8-0 with 8:30 left in the first period.
The kickoff by the Vikings went out of bounds, giving the Blazers possession at their 40-yard line. The series ended with a punt on 4th and 10 (the eighth play of the possession).
Grayling started at its 25-yard line after the downed punt. Huspen rushed for eight yards on 1st and 10. A pass from Kucharek to Dickie gained enough for a first down. Aldrich rushed for eight yards. On 2nd and 2, Grayling fumbled and Kalkaska recovered the ball. 
On the eighth play of the series – 4th and 8 – the Blazers went for it and Tayvion Hall batted down the pass attempt for the Vikings.
Grayling took over at its 40-yard line. On the fourth play of the series – 4th and 5 – a pass to Fletcher Quinlan gained 15 yards. Aldrich rushed for five yards. On 2nd and 5, Huspen ran for six yards. The Vikings lost 10 yards on a holding penalty. After two incomplete passes, on 3rd and 20, a reception by Aldrich gained nine yards. On 4th and 11, a pass interference penalty on Kalkaska gave the Vikings a first down. A penalty on Kalkaska (hands to the face) brought up 1st and goal at the 5-yard line. Aldrich rushed for a five-yard TD on the next play; the officials called an unsportsmanlike conduct on Kalkaska after the play and ejected one of its coaches. Huspen ran the ball across the goal line for the two-point conversion.
With 7:39 left in the second quarter, Grayling had a 16-0 lead.
Kalkaska caught Grayling’s kickoff in the end zone, resulting in a touchback. The Blazers picked up three first downs and drove into Grayling territory, but the series ended with an incomplete pass on 4th and 9. The resulting series for the Vikings ended with a punt.
Kalkaska started at its 33-yard line after the downed punt. On the fourth play of the series – 4th and 8 – the Blazers punted but a holding penalty on Grayling gave Kalkaska a first down. Later in the drive, the Blazers converted a 4th and 2 play with a QB sneak. On 2nd and 10, after an incomplete pass on first down, Kucharek intercepted a Kalkaska pass attempt. 
Grayling took over at its 32-yard line with 25 seconds left in the second period. Aldrich rushed for 12 yards on first down. After an incomplete pass, Kucharek threw to Aldrich and he pitched it to Huspen. The play did not result in a touchdown.
The score at halftime was Grayling 16, Kalkaska 0. 
The Blazers recovered an on-side kick to start the second half but the series ended on downs with a rushing play on 4th and 6.
The Vikings started at their 42-yard line. On the fourth play of the series – 4th and 1 – Aldrich rushed for a first down; the officials ejected one player from each team after the play and assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty on Grayling. Two rushes by Huspen picked up a first down. A pass to Cole Dickie gained 10 yards. Two runs by Huspen picked up 19 yards and another first down. Kucharek ran for seven yards. On 2nd and 3, Huspen ran for a 10-yard TD. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
With 4:57 left in the third period, the Vikings led 22-0.
Kalkaska drove 67 yards on eight plays, capping the series with a 12-yard TD run. The Blazers ran the ball across the goal line for the two-point conversion.
Grayling – with 2:19 left in the third quarter – had a 22-8 lead.
Kalkaska recovered its on-side kick at Grayling’s 44-yard line. The Blazers drove 44 yards on 11 plays, scoring on a three-yard TD run on 3rd and 2. Hall deflected the pass attempt on the two-point play.
With 9:49 left in regulation, Grayling led by eight points, 22-14.
Kalkaska recovered another on-side kick attempt, this time at Grayling’s 36-yard line. The Blazers completed a pass for a 17-yard gain on first down. Later, on 4th and 11, Kalkaska went for it and the play ended with an incomplete pass.
The Vikings took over at their 20-yard line. Grayling drove 80 yards on 12 plays, finishing the series with a 10-yard TD run by Huspen. Huspen also ran the ball for the two-point conversion.
With 1:49 left in regulation, Grayling led 30-14.
Kalkaska returned the kickoff to its 23-yard line. A personal foul penalty (horse collar tackle) on Grayling gave the Blazers a first down. On the next play, Hall intercepted a pass attempt by Kalkaska and returned it all the way for a touchdown. Kucharek kicked the extra point. With 1:09 left in the fourth quarter, the Vikings led 37-14.
A long kickoff return put Kalkaska 24 yards from the end zone. The Blazers completed a pass for an 18-yard gain. On 2nd and goal, Kalkaska scored on a seven-yard run. Grayling stopped the two-point conversion attempt.
The Vikings led 37-20 with 19 seconds left in the game.
The Blazers attempted and recovered another on-side kick. Kalkaska completed a pass for a 19-yard gain. The Vikings intercepted Kalkaska’s next pass attempt, giving Grayling possession with seven seconds left on the clock. The Vikings killed the final seven seconds and Grayling won by a final score of 37-20.
According to the team, Kucharek had 101 passing yards. Huspen rushed for 164 yards and two TDs; he also had 49 receiving yards. Aldrich had 51 rushing yards and two TDs.
On defense, Hall, Huspen, and Kucharek each had an interception. Huspen had four solo tackles. Quinlan, Aldrich, and Tucker Strohaver each had three solo tackles.
“It was a much needed win to finish off the year,” Coach Eric Tunney said. “The kids played hard as always and we were able to do enough to hold them off despite losing a couple of our key guys due to ejections. It was a good game and wasn’t overly dirty or anything but there were lots of penalties and four total people tossed out of the game and I didn’t think any of them were warranted but that’s what happened. I’m proud of how our kids responded and had guys step up. It was the Guardian Game where we play in honor of all first responders and all former and active military and there was a trophy on the line so we had some extra motivation and had something to play for. The season didn’t go how we wanted record wise but these kids kept fighting and battling every game regardless of our record or the score of the games. I’m very proud of their grit and tenacity, which will help them be successful in their futures.”

Crawford County Avalanche

Mailing Address
Box 490
Grayling, MI 49738

Phone: 989-348-6811
FAX: 989-348-6806

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