Vikings defeat Ramblers 28-20 to win district title
Wed, 11/18/2020 - 11:07am caleb
Football squad advances to regionals with victory vs. Boyne City, but MHSAA forced to suspend playoffs as state orders organized sports to cease for three weeks
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Grayling High School’s varsity football team clinched a district championship with a 28-20 victory vs. the Boyne City Ramblers on Saturday, November 14, at Boyne City High School.
Boyne City kicked off to Grayling to start the game and the Vikings opened the contest with a scoring drive. Grayling – starting at its 35-yard line after Boyne City’s kickoff went out of bounds – gained 30 yards with a run by David Millikin on 1st and 10. A toss to Millikin gained 13 yards and another first down. Millikin rushed for five yards on the next play. On 2nd and 5, quarterback Hunter Ventline rushed for a 16-yard TD. Eliot Boik kicked the extra point, and with 10:05 left in the first period, the Vikings led 7-0.
The first series for Boyne City ended with a punt on 4th and 14. The ball went out of bounds at Grayling’s 16-yard line.
The drive ended with a fumble on 2nd and 8; the Ramblers recovered the loose ball 26 yards from the goal line.
On the fourth play of the resulting series – 4th and 5 – Boyne City went for it, and Jordan Wakeley deflected the pass attempt for the Vikings. Grayling took over on downs at its 21-yard line. The possession ended with a punt on 4th and 7.
The Ramblers drove 61 yards on 10 plays, finishing the series with a short touchdown run on 1st and goal. The extra point kick missed. With 1:28 left in the first quarter, Grayling led 7-6.
Boyne City’s kickoff went out of bounds again, giving the Vikings the ball at their 35-yard line. On the 3rd play of the series – 3rd and 9 – Ventline completed a deep pass to Dylan Cragg for a gain of 26 yards. Grayling fumbled on the next play and Boyne City recovered the ball.
The Ramblers took over at their 43-yard line. On the fourth play of the drive – 4th and 1 – Boyne City fumbled and Wakeley recovered the loose ball for the Vikings at the 50-yard line. The resulting series ended with a punt on 4th and 10.
The next two drives – one for each team – also ended with punts.
On 2nd and 10 for the Vikings late in the second period, Boyne City intercepted a Grayling pass attempt. The Ramblers drove 56 yards on 11 plays, scoring a touchdown on a 13-yard run on 3rd and 5. Boyne City ran the ball into the end zone for the two-point conversion.
With 27 seconds left in the second period, the Ramblers led 14-7.
After the kickoff return, Grayling had the ball at its 34-yard line with 23 seconds left in the first half. On 2nd and 5, Boyne City intercepted a Grayling pass attempt.
The Ramblers took over 41 yards from the end zone with seven seconds left in the half. Boyne City ran one play, and the pass attempt fell incomplete, ending the second quarter.
At halftime, the score was Boyne City 14, Grayling 7.
The Vikings kicked off to the Ramblers to start the second half. The series, which started at Boyne City’s 34-yard line, ended on downs at Boyne City’s 39-yard line.
Grayling gained two yards on a run by Millikin. After an incomplete pass, on 3rd and 8, a holding penalty on Boyne City gave the Vikings a first down. Later, on 4th and 3, Grayling went for it; Ventline completed a pass to Cragg for a gain of 17 yards. On the next play – 1st and goal – Millikin rushed for a three-yard TD. Boyne City blocked the extra point kick.
With 6:47 left in the third quarter, the Ramblers led 14-13.
The next two possessions – one for each squad – ended with punts.
Boyne City, on 2nd and 5, fumbled the ball and Grayling recovered it 41 yards from the goal line.
The Vikings lost yards on a rushing play and a fumble. On 3rd and 25, Ventline threw deep to Cragg for a 56-yard TD. Ventline ran the ball into the end zone for the two-point conversion. With 20 seconds left in the third quarter, the Vikings led 21-14.
Boyne City responded with a quick scoring drive. On 1st and 10, the Ramblers ran for 42 yards. Boyne City finished the series with a 15-yard TD run on 2nd and 11. The Ramblers went for two points on the conversion attempt and Grayling’s defense stopped the run short of the goal line.
With 11:15 left in the game, the Vikings led 21-20.
Grayling’s next drive ended with a punt; Boyne City partially blocked the kick. The Ramblers started at the Vikings’ 40-yard line with 8:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. The drive went backwards and it ended with an incomplete pass on 4th and 19.
Grayling took over at its 49-yard line. After a one-yard run on first down, Millikin got free along the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown run. Boik kicked the extra point.
With 6:42 remaining in regulation, the Vikings led 28-20.
Grayling’s kickoff went out of bounds and Boyne City started at its 35-yard line. A rushing play on first down lost one yard. An incomplete pass brought up 3rd and 11. A run on third down gained one yard. The Ramblers punted on 4th and 10.
Grayling ran the ball three times and punted on 4th and 10. Boyne City’s returner called for a fair catch and muffed the kick. Anthony Fisher recovered the ball in the open field but because a fair catch was called he was not allowed to advance the ball.
The Vikings started at midfield with four minutes on the clock. Three runs by Millikin gained enough for a first down and forced Boyne City to use its final timeout. Runs by Millikin, Fisher, and Ventline picked up 10 yards and another first down. Grayling knelt to kill the final seconds and the Vikings won 28-20.
According to the team, Ventline threw for 158 yards with one TD and he ran for 31 yards and one TD. Millikin rushed for 115 yards and two TDs. Cragg had 91 receiving yards and one TD.
“What a great game. I’m so proud of our kids and the way they just keep fighting,” Coach Eric Tunney said. “They are a resilient group of kids and I couldn’t be happier for them. I’m happy for our whole school and community. Everyone’s been through so much recently and we’re still going through it but it just adds some excitement and joy to a lot of people.”
“I’ve been fortunate to have played and coached in some big football games but I’ve never received so many messages after any of them compared to those I got after Saturday’s game. Friends, coworkers, community members, area coaches, and probably my favorite, our former players, were blowing my phone up all day and night,” Coach Tunney said. “This one was for all who’ve came before and for our whole community. G-Town hasn’t won one of these since 2005 when Coach (Ben) Brock and (Tim) Sanchez were at the helm so it’s been a while. These kids are Grayling strong and Viking tough and to see the joy and excitement from them and everyone else is just a good feeling.”
“It would have been easy to fold at halftime, down a TD, four turnovers, not playing well, and they were receiving the kickoff. It would have been easy to fold when we lost to Kingsley and were 1-3. Coach (Don) Ferguson addressed them before we left for the game and he talked to them about heart and how it doesn’t matter how talented you are but you have to have heart. These kids don’t quit. They showed their heart in that second half. They’re building skills that are going to help them throughout their lives. So proud and happy for them and our whole community,” Coach Tunney said.
The Vikings were scheduled to host Negaunee in the regional round on either Friday or Saturday, but a new mandate from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced on Sunday, November 15, ordered the suspension of in-person learning and sports at Michigan high schools for three weeks effective Wednesday, November 18. The status for the remainder of the fall 2020 sports season is now unknown.
“The Michigan High School Athletic Association has suspended its fall tournaments for girls volleyball, girls swimming & diving, and football, and all winter practices and competitions scheduled to begin over the next three weeks per the emergency order to pause activity announced Sunday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to limit the spread of COVID-19,” according to the MHSAA.
“We understand the need for action, and we will explore all options to complete our fall tournaments when restrictions are lifted. We will assess everything over the next three weeks relative to fall and winter sports and come up with a plan that keeps us connected to our goal, for months, of having three seasons that are played to their conclusions,” said MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl.
“Another chapter to this roller coaster of a ride,” Coach Tunney said. “I am greatly saddened obviously of the chance that we may not get to host and play Negaunee for the regional championship. The joy these kids had and the excitement it brought our community was fantastic and we hope we can get a chance to get that again.”
“That all being said, I am extremely thankful for the weeks we have been fortunate enough to have played and practice,” Coach Tunney said. “We can’t forget that all of this was taken away from these boys early on and my heart broke for them. Then we were back, then it was the fear of at any moment we could get the call and have to shut down. It’s been a crazy ride but I’m extremely proud of these kids.”
“If this is it, I’m sad as I know how hard they’ve worked and believe they have a good shot at earning another trophy and making it to the semis for the first time in school history. Nobody wants it to end like this but it could end at any time due to test results and/or contact tracing in probably an even more heartbreaking fashion. If this is it, I am extremely grateful for the kids and the heart and perseverance they’ve shown since mid-March. I’m thankful for the support from the parents and community as well. We will wait and see. We’ll do our best to keep the kids active and engaged; obviously it has its difficulties being all virtual. We’ll be ready if we get the call. One thing I know, these kids have developed some lifelong skills that will help them in the future. Time will tell what and when we’re able to continue this wild ride,” Coach Tunney said.