Blue Devils spoil homecoming
GLADSTONE- After scoring to start the second quarter and cutting the Sault Ste Marie lead to 14-6, Gladstone head coach Cody Kangas knew the next defensive series was going to be a decisive one.
“When we kicked off I told my coach on the headset, ‘these two plays are going to tell us how were going to do the rest of the game. Either we’re going to score or we’re going to stop them and it’s going to be a good game, and they ended up scoring on the second play,'” Kangas said.
On that second play Blue Devils running back Ray’nell Anderson shook off the Braves defenders for a 66-yard touchdown on the way to a 45-22 Sault high victory.
“We had some momentum until that long play and that kind of took the air out of our sails,” Kangas said.
The Braves (0-6) started the game going three-and-out while the Blue Devils scored on a five play drive that ended with Anderson sweeping left for a five-yard touchdown with 7:35 remaining in the first quarter.
Sault High’s defense forced the Braves into another three-and-out on the next possession and started their drive on the Gladstone 45-yard line. Justin DeLisle got the Blue Devils (3-3) right into scoring position as he took a right sweep 40 yards to the Braves five yard line.
Anderson scored on the ensuing play play as Sault High took a 14-0 lead.
“We kind of got a little bit reliant on the pass the last couple of weeks and we really wanted to try to reestablish the running game and especially our sweep, we’ve got two very good guards and I thought we did a good job with that in the first half,” said Sault Ste Marie head coach Scott Menard.
The Braves weren’t able to get any offense going on the next drive, getting backed up to their own 14-yard line before being forced to punt.
The Blue Devils once again started in Gladstone territory and scored on a nine play drive capped off by DeLisle’s four yard run up the middle.
“We’ve been trying to go back to a little inside-outside,” Menard said. “That’s where we got our success last year and we’re trying to establish a little running game on the inside, especially on short yardage. That really kept them off balance and allowed our sweep to be successful.”
On the next possession Gladstone found some success through the air as Sam Pouliot completed four straight passes and Riley Ballard swept left for a 13-yard gain to the Blue Devils 30-yard line.
The drive halted though as Pouliot was intercepted by junior linebacker Nathan LaJoie. Menard said his team’s success relies on the defense’s ability to make big plays.
“Our defensive line has been one of our strengths,” Menard said. “What they’ve been able to do is allow our linebackers, and we have two very good linebackers, to roam freely and be able to make some plays. We’re only going to go as far as though front four guys and our two linebackers.”
The Braves stuck with the run in the second half and started to get into a rhythm in the fourth quarter. After a first down run by Braves fullback Justin Jurek, Gladstone called senior Cody Malanowski’s number. Malanowski rumbled off a 45-yard run as he was dragged down just short of the endzone.
Pouliot snuck in for the score on the next play and Malanowski plowed his way in for the two-point conversion.
“He’s a big tough kid, I wouldn’t want to get in his way,” Kangas said. “He’s a great blocker in our I-set for our backs and I told our guys we’re going to power the ball for the rest of the year and teams are going to know that, it’s just who wants it more, and tonight the Sault wanted it more.”
The Braves went for the onside kick on the next possession, which went off a Blue Devils face mask and into the hands of Gladstone’s Jacob Cronick.
Hoping to keep the offense rolling, the Braves went deep on the next possession only to see Justin DeLisle of the Sault come up with a one handed interception.
“Turnovers are always big and I thought after we got that onside kick if we scored really quick that gets everyone into it,” Kangas said. “That’s a coaching decision I’ve made in the past and if it works out you look like a genius and if it doesn’t you look like an idiot. But I’m fine with that, I’m fine with making those decisions, we’ll just have to execute better next time.”
Jurek punched in one more touchdown with 29 seconds left in the game. Blue Devils kicker Istvan Wilhelms was 6/6 on extra points and connected on a 36-yard field goal.
“I think he’s doing a great job with those kids,” Menard said. “I thought that they didn’t give up and they easily had the chance to do that. We thought that they hit as hard and worked as hard as any team we’ve come across all year and they didn’t play like an 0-6 team tonight.”