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| 6 min. read | by: Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com |

An incredible season for the Dexter Dreadnaught football team (8-2) came to end at home on Nov. 1 against the Livonia Churchill Chargers (6-4) when they fell 41-39 in the opening round of the playoffs. 

A down to the wire game, the two teams battled back and forth all night on a cold evening at Al Ritt Stadium. This loss marks the second season in a row that the Dreads have made the playoffs, last year for the first time ever, but they’re still in search of their first playoff win in program history. 

“They came out exactly how we prepared for and what we expected,” said Dread head coach Phil Jacobs.  “They were a very physical football team. They dominated the trenches tonight. We had some playmakers that made plays tonight for us. We had our chance at the end to tie it up, ended up letting it slip away.” 

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The Dreads opening drive ended in a score. After a Charger penalty changed a fourth and seven to fourth and two, the Dreads went for it and converted on a run from junior running back Evan Krolewski. 

The play after the fourth down conversion, junior quarterback Colin Parachek hit senior wide receiver Antwan Ficklen on a slant and Ficklen did the rest, scoring from 29-yards out under two minutes into the game to take a 7-0 lead. Ficklen finished with eight catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns in high last high school football game.

After a punt from both teams, the Chargers got on the board. A few big runs from senior Mitchell Regan put the Chargers deep in Dread territory and Regan would score from 5-yards out with 2:34. Dread senior lineman Mark Young blocked the extra point and the Dreads would take a 7-6 lead into the second with the ball on the Chargers 21-yard line. 

That drive would culminate in the second Parachek to Ficklen connection of the night with Parachek finding Ficklen scrambling out of the pocket with 9:23 in the first half to take a 13-6 lead. 

Following two Charger punts with one Dread punt in the middle, the  Dreads would get the ball with 4:26 left in the first half on their own 23-yard line. 

A ten play, 3:09 drive ended with Parachek throwing his third touchdown of the first half to senior wide receiver Bobby Pnacek with 1:17 left to take a 20-6 lead. 

The Chargers would respond with a huge touchdown drive to end the first half, knowing they’d receive the first half kick-off. 

With 1:10 left, at their own 20-yard line, they drove down the field with quick passes to the sideline to stop the clock. After a catch and run from senior Brendan Lowry gave the Chargers a first down at the Dread 23-yard line, they took a timeout with 12 seconds left. 

A pass left for Lowry after the timeout moved the Chargers to the Dread 7-yard line. They took their last timeout with a first and goal with 5 seconds left. After the formations broke, the Dreads took their timeout. 

On the ensuing play, Dread senior Noah Mitchell was step for step with the Charger receiver forcing the pass break up, but one second remained on the clock. The very next play, Chargers junior quarterback Gavin Brooks found a wide open junior wide receiver Shane Morelli with no time left on the clock to make it 20-13, in favor of the Dreads, heading into the locker room.

“The clock operator had a big say in that,” said Jacobs about the Chargers taking momentum to end the half. “A big say.”

In the third quarter, the two teams went punch for punch like a prime-time boxing match. 

“We came out, scored on our first possession,” said Jacobs. “They countered a bit and we countered back, but penalties killed us. Multiple times we’re facing a second and long and they put in a nickel package, guarding the short pass with the safety watching the deep pass. They did a good job defensively. We sputtered at times.”

First, the Chargers tied the game at 20 on their opening drive of the second half. It only took three plays and ended with Brooks finding Lowry behind the Dread secondary for a 42-yard touchdown strike less than a minute into the second half. 

On the next Dread possession, they answered with a 9-play, 70-yard drive of their own. Dread senior wide receiver Trevor Bazzy had two big catches on that drive, a first and 20 and a third and ten conversion. 

The second Bazzy catch set the Dreads up at the Chargers 9-yard line and Parachek would throw it up to his freshman brother, Brennan Parachek in the corner to take the 27-02 lead with 8:12 left.

The Chargers response was quick again. Their ensuing drive took four plays and 1:41. Lowry made a big catch and run once again, with Dread senior corner Jasper Howell making a touchdown saving tackle, to set up the score. Chargers sophomore Davieon Pitchford ran it in from one yard out on third and goal with 6:26 in the third to tie it at 27. 

The Dreads would reclaim the lead on their next drive. After a big catch from Pnacek to convert a third and long, the Dreads would score two plays later.

A 46-yard touchdown strike that saw Dread senior wide receiver Rhett Jacobs beat his man down the sideline with 4:35 made it 33-27 after the extra point hit the post. R. Jacobs led the Dreads with eight catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

Similar to the end of the first half, the Chargers would score with no time left in the third after getting the ball back with 4:29 at their own 33-yard line. 

Brooks would find sophomore Bailey Brooks on a broken play, scrambling to his right before finding a diving B. Brooks to take the 34-33 lead into the fourth quarter. 

The Dreads threw a pick to start the fourth quarter and gave the ball to the  Chargers at the Dread 37-yard line but the defense held. Howell had a pass break up on third down and the Chargers dropped the fourth down pass.

After a Dread punt, the Chargers drove the length of the field but came up just short. They went for it on fourth and goal and completed the pass, but it was just short and gave the Dreads the ball at their own 1-uard line. 

That drive would end after the Dreads got some breathing room but turned it over on their own 47-yard line when a screen pass that was dropped and recovered by the Chargers was ruled a lateral with 3:35 left. 

Capitalizing on that turnover, the Chargers would score on a 45-yard strike from Brooks to Morelli for the 41-33 lead with 2:24 to go. 

Starting from their own 20-yard line with 2:24 left, the Dreads had to play smart. 

With 1:32 left, facing a fourth and short from the Chargers 40-yard line, Parachek found R. Jacobs on the right sideline and R. Jacobs took it down the sideline to set the Dreads up with a first and goal from the Chargers 7-yard line. 

After a Chargers timeout with the Dreads facing a third and goal from the Chargers 3-yard line with 44 seconds left, a false start moved the Dreads back to the 8-yard line. 

On the next play, Parachek would finds Jacobs out to his left for the score with 40 seconds left to make the score 41-39. 

The two-point conversion was a broken play that ended in Parachek heaving it up and B. Parachek getting a hand on it in a mass of bodies but he couldn’t bring it down. 

Parachek finished 28-46 for 356 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception. B. Parachek would grab eight catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.

After the Chargers recovered the onside kick, they kneeled out the remaining time to move on in the post season. 

Dread head coach Phil Jacobs addresses the team after their 41-39 loss to Livonia Churchill.

Over the last two years, this team has set 21 (!) program records and despite the loss, this year’s team upheld the new standard that last year’s team began for Dexter football.

Jacobs gave his postgame speech to a team with nary a dry eye in the huddle. 

“Of course this game will sting,” said Jacobs. “This (senior class). It started coming together two years ago, you could see them coming  together, you really could. They got together over the summer every night of the week with the jug machine, 7 on 7s, 1 on 1s against each other.  Good teams that make it into and far in the playoffs, they do those extra things that a coach doesn’t have to tell you to do. The kids take it upon themselves. This group did. They won 14 games, a great accomplishment in itself. It could be, I’m not sure, but don’t know if there’s another group of seniors here that won 14 games. I’m proud of this group, they’ll be in my heart forever.”

Photos by Lynne Beauchamp

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