Montague’s Keenon Aylor (left) hauls in a long pass from Brandon Moore while Norseman Antonio Gordon attempts to defend during Montague’s 44-14 win over North Muskegon Friday night.
MONTAGUE — On a night that the Montague Wildcats honored their first state playoff team, the 2012 version of the team served notice that they are rounding into form just in time for the postseason.
After a scoreless first quarter Friday night against North Muskegon, the Wildcats exploded for 37 points in the second quarter, putting things away early and defeating the Norsemen 44-14 to finish conference season with a 6-1 league record.
Even straight-laced Wildcats’ coach Pat Collins had some incredulous laughter when trying to explain the dynamic offensive quarter that put the game away.
“I want to really give a hat off to the offense,” Collins said. “The offense played phenomenal and really started to gain some rhythm. They’ve started doing things we’ve been wanting to do all year.”
Montague’s offense was potent as usual, exemplified by a 44-yard touchdown run from Brandon Moore that saw him zigzagging through the Norsemen defense. However, the defense and special teams did more than their share of the work in setting Montague up for some scores.
After the Wildcats secured a 7-0 lead early in the frame with a workmanlike touchdown drive, Norsemen kick returner Antonio Gordon made a critical error by letting a short kickoff bounce in front of him, expecting it to go out of bounds. Instead, Dylan Lohman raced in to recover the kickoff. A couple of plays later, Brenden Stine punched it in from three yards out.
The Norsemen responded with a scoring drive of their own, but Montague’s special teams then took over. The Wildcats ran a nifty trick play that saw a lateral go across the field to Moore on the ensuing kickoff, and Moore raced in for a touchdown.
As if that weren’t enough, Montague then stopped North Muskegon’s Sam Powell at the 5-yard line on the next kickoff, eventually recording a safety on defense. The score was 23-6, and Montague was off to the races. They would score two more touchdowns before the quarter was over.
“We take a lot of pride in our special teams units,” Collins said. “We think our kicking game needs to be top-notch in order to make a run in the playoffs.”
“All in all it was a really awesome quarter.”
Montague would put in another score late in the third quarter before sending the reserves in for the rest of the game.
North Muskegon entered the game as the surprise team in the West Michigan Conference, having won three out of four games after posting a winless season in 2011 and a three-game losing streak to start the year. However, Montague simply overwhelmed the Norsemen.
“They’re still a great team and they’ve done a phenomenal job,” Collins said. “We’re trying to look within and trying to improve us each week. That’s where our focus was this week was just trying to get better.”
Moore and Stine each had 81 yards rushing for Montague. Keenon Aylor notched 70 yards receiving, while Alex VanVleet recorded an interception. Jacob Marsh led Montague in tackles with 13.
The 1992 state runner-up team was honored at halftime, including Collins, who was the quarterback of that squad, and current athletic director Ken Diamond, who coached the team 20 years ago. The gravity of the moment, said the coach, was not lost on the 2012 Wildcats, who have a chance to be one of those squads that are recognized in years to come.
“We had them intermixed with the guys who played 20 years ago with me, shaking some hands and watch the highlight film and see some of the things that went on,” Collins said. “I think they got the message. They understood the tradition and what they wanted to do tonight was come out and make those guys proud of the Montague tradition.”
Montague, which has locked up a playoff berth, will close its regular season next week with a home game against Fremont before awaiting word of where it will begin postseason play.
Vikings put early scare into Oakridge
MUSKEGON - Visiting Whitehall, fighting for its playoff life, put a scare into unbeaten Oakridge Friday night in the final week of West Michigan Conference action until the Eagles scored three second-half TDs to fend off the Vikings, 40-27.
The loss for Whitehall gives the Vikings a 4-4 record heading into this Friday’s season-ending game against Grant at home. The Vikings will have to win for an outside chance at the playoffs. Oakridge, at 8-0 and 7-0 in the league, assured itself a WMC title.
The Vikings started fast Friday, shocking Oakridge with two first-quarter touchdowns, the first on a 72-yard pass from Steven Sika to Devontae Vance. The second score came on a three-yard run by Joe Sika, Joe Sika ran for a two-point conversion following the first score, and Emmit Mikkelson kicked the PAT to put the Vikings up 15-0.
Before the quarter ended the Eagles struck back on an eight-yard TD run by Dan Shoop. Dom Greenawalt scored a two-point conversion on a pass from Austin Wright.
Oakridge took the lead in the second quarter on two scores. Shoop sprinted 93 yards for a TD and Beka Shepherd kicked the PAT to tie the game.
Then, Jerick Wambaugh scored on a nine-yard run. The PAT kicked failed to leave Oakridge with a 21-15 lead.
The Vikings knotted the score once more with under three minutes in the half when Steven Sika hit his twin brother, Joe Sika, on a 55-yard scoring toss. The kick failed.
Oakridge took over in the second half.
Shoop scored his third TD of the game in the third quarter on a 20-yard run to put the Eagles up 27-21.
Then midway into the fourth quarter the Eagles scored twice within 36 seconds. First, Greenawalt grabbed his second TD reception, this time 18 yards from Wright. Shepherd kicked the PAT to put Oakridge up 34-21. Then Francis Decker ran 38 yards to the end zone. The PAT kicked failed.
Whitehall scored its final TD on the last play of the game. It came on a 33-yard pass with the Sika combination.
R-P rolls past Union
GRAND RAPIDS — Reeths-Puffer posted its first O-K Black Conference victory of the season Friday night, blowing out Union 55-8 to halt a four-game losing streak.
The Rockets did most of their damage on the ground, as Johndries Betts-Render gained an impressive 220 yards on only 17 carries, scoring five touchdowns. Julian Munday carried the ball eight times and gained 80 yards for the Rockets, scoring twice.
Reeths-Puffer also played impressively on defense, as Corey Plichta recovered three fumbles for the Rockets. Union did not score until the fourth quarter, and Reeths-Puffer had a 41-0 lead at the halftime break.
The Rockets’ 47-point margin of victory in the game was the largest in the history of the football program. The previous record had been set in a 48-6 win over Whitehall in 1979.
Reeths-Puffer will conclude its season Friday night when it hosts Mona Shores.