For the Emeralds, a must-win to stay alive; for their opponent, it was a game played for nothing other than pride. In the end, the show was worth the price of admission.
The Harbor Spring Rams (3- 6) battled the Emeralds for more then 30 minutes hoping to play the spoiler, but only played well enough to earn the respect of their host and come up short, losing 12-6 in double overtime.
For the Emeralds, the season will continue, and they will have one more opportunity to strap on pads and prove they have the right to be in the game this late in October.
In what proved to be a defensive battle, the Rams jumped out front in the second quarter when Sam Hanson broke through the line and took off for an 82-yard TD run. The two-point conversion failed, putting Harbor Springs up by 6-0. Their advantage didn’t last long; the Emeralds tied the game at six when Kenner Broullire scored on short yardage with 2:47 left to play in the half.
Both teams had opportunities in the second half. Coming off the break, the Emeralds fumbled the opening kickoff, then recovered by Harbor Springs. The Rams also recovered a fumble by Manistique late in the fourth quarter deep in Emerald territory. Both times, drives stalled.
Following the stop late in the fourth quarter, it looked as though the Rams defense would give their team one more shot, but were flagged for offsides, giving the Emeralds a new set of downs.
Unable to take advantage, the Emeralds drive also stalled with the game tied at six as time expired in regulation.
Neither team scored on their first possession in overtime. Harbor Springs won the toss, drove down to the one, but couldn’t punch it in. The Emeralds attempted a field goal, but the kick by Broullire missed the mark.
On the Rams second possession of OT, Matt Gonzales blitzed from his safety position and sacked Peter Lauer for a big loss to end the possession and put the ball back in the Emeralds’ hands.
“Our defense really played well tonight, especially inside the red zone,” Coach Todd Kangas said. “They had a few opportunities and if they could have capped those off, it would have been a different story.”
Unable to convert, frustration set in for the Rams. Following the sack, two players were ejected from the game.
“The goal line stand by our defense was huge,” said Kangas. “It was hard to tell from where we were just what took place. I was waiting for the ref to make the call. It took a while, usually if it was going to be a touchdown they would call it right away. The longer they went, the more confident I felt. From there it got interesting, tempers started to flair.”
Because of the two infractions by Harbor Springs, the Emeralds were given the ball at the threeyard line. Three plays later, Zavier Gonzalez crossed the goal line for the win on his only carry of the night.
“It was an exciting game Friday and we are very happy to be back in the playoffs,” said Kangas. “We knew it was going to be a tough game, they have some big players and their backs run hard. It was a fight to the end.”
“We gave them a few opportunities early, fumbled the second half kickoff and turned the ball over in the fourth quarter on an exchange,” he explained.
With the win, the Emeralds hit the road and travel to Calumet to take on the Copper Kings Friday. The match-up between the two has eerie similarities.
Both teams started off the season with losses to Negaunee and Ishpeming. Both teams post a 6-3 record. Calumet, like the Emeralds, needed to win there last game to keep any hope of a post season alive.
Kangas and the Emeralds last made back-to-back trips to the playoffs in 2007-08. Despite the long bus ride, Kangas expects his team to be ready for the challenge.
“We had to win six of our last seven games to get to the playoffs after starting off 0-2,” he said. “We won our final three against some good teams; we played from behind and managed to come back and win. It should be a good football game.”
For Calumet, two of their six wins came against teams with a winning record.
For those unable to make the game, WTIQ 1490 will be broadcasting play by play action.