BOYNE CITY — Many loud and passionate fans expected a shootout Friday when undefeated Boyne City hosted the Vikings from Grayling with the Lake Michigan Conference trophy on the line.
Ultimately, it was the defenses that took the spotlight.
Grayling shut out Boyne City, 21-0, at a packed Earl Brotherston Field and earned its first-ever Lake Michigan Conference title as they capped the school’s first undefeated season, 9-0 overall, 6-0 league, since 1970.
The Ramblers, who were in search of their first league title since 2001, finish the regular season at 8-1, 5-1.
“Defensively, I thought we held up very well,” Boyne City coach Dave Hills said. “Our inability to put points on the board puts added pressure on the defense and it allows them to be much more aggressive offensively.
“We needed to put points on the board early and we didn’t do that.”
The first Boyne City drive of the game stood as an early painful premonition of things to come for the Ramblers.
After a promising Grayling drive stalled to open the game, thanks in part to a third-down seam pass broken up by Boyne City defensive back Bradley Fouchia, the Ramblers took the field at their own 26-yard line.
A couple of tough runs by freshman Malik Smith, a 15-yard reception by Fouchia from quarterback Corey Redman and Boyne City earned a spot 3-yards away from the goal line.
On first and goal a delay of game penalty set the Ramblers back and the team never snapped the ball from inside their opponent’s 20 for the rest of the game.
“Not scoring in the first quarter when we were down in the red zone really hurt us, because our offense was moving well,” Hills said. “You don’t score there and they drive down the field and put pressure on you. Then we’re kind of scrambling and they start put more pressure on us defensively and we just didn’t have answers for it.”
The Vikings rallied after a fourth down pass from Redman fell incomplete.
Taking 1:50 off the clock, Grayling junior quarterback Jake Swander orchestrated a 95-yard drive on six plays. A 65-yard bomb to Kevin Harris broke through the defense to swallow the majority of the yardage.
The drive was capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Ty Jensen. The senior was the workhorse for the night, rushing for 120 yards on 21 carries. He added a second touchdown on a six-yard run and completed the hat trick in the third quarter on an 8-yard swing pass.
Boyne City relied on Smith’s legs for most of their yardage, mustering 63 yards on 15 carries.
Viking coach Tim Sanchez was pleased with the effort of his defense.
“Tonight it was just something extra special that the kids brought (on defense),” he said. “They really stepped it up and came in ready to hit.”
As for the first time in school history that Grayling ends the regular season a perfect 9-0, a smiling Sanchez ordered his team to take some time and enjoy the feat.
“It’s huge for us,” Sanchez said. “I told the kids, you’ve got tonight and tomorrow to celebrate this league championship. It’s unbelievable. It’s special, the first ever 9-0 team (in school history). We’ll worry about who we play (in the playoffs) Sunday night.