Dreadnaughts Incredible Comeback Secures First Ever Playoff Berth





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The Dexter Dreadnaught football team sings the fight song with fans after their win over Lincoln, securing their first ever trip to the playoffs.

By: Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com

Coming into this season, the Dexter Dreadnaught football team’s last win dated back to Sept. of 2013. On Oct. 12 the Dreadnaughts defeated the Lincoln Railsplitters, 48-42, securing their sixth win of the season and their first trip to playoffs in school history.

The Dreadnaughts led 21-14 with 1:08 left in the third quarter before the Railsplitters scored 28 straight points to take a 21-point lead with 7:58 remaining in the game. In that 7:58, the Dreadnaughts scored 27 unanswered points of their own en route to the 48-42 victory.



First Quarter

The game started out on a sloppy note, the first two plays were turnovers. First, Dreadnaught junior wide receiver Antwan Ficklen recovered the Railsplitter opening kickoff that was fumbled. On the very next play, the Dreadnaughts gave it back, fumbling on a run.

In a crazy game of momentum swings, the teams combined for nine turnovers, the Dreadnaughts finished with five and the Railsplitters finished with four. Ficklen, had three recoveries for the Dreadnaughts.

After the first quarter, the Railsplitters led 14-7, scoring the first two touchdowns before the Dreadnaughts got on the board.

Railsplitter senior running back Trevon Davis scored on a 7-yard run to make it 7-0 with 8:15 in the quarter.

After the Railsplitters picked off Dreadnaught sophomore quarterback Colin Parachek the Dreadnaught defense was up to the task, stopping a fourth and short deep in their own territory

After a Dreadnaught punt, the Railsplitters scored again, a 67-yard sweep to Railsplitter senior wide receiver Kyjuan Rice to make it 14-0.

With 41 seconds in the quarter, the Dreadnaughts got a break as the Railsplitters muffed the punt and Ficklen recovered on the Railsplitter 30-yard line. Later that drive, on a fourth down from the Railsplitter 25-yard line, Parachek found senior running back Mason Loudermilk out of the backfield for a screen. He took it the 25-yards to make the score 14-7 with 18 seconds remaining in the quarter.

Second Quarter

The Dreadnaughts would score again early in the second quarter after a big punt return from Ficklen, setting up the Dreadnaughts on the Railsplitter 40-yard line. Ficklen averaged 33-yards on his two returns before the Railsplitters kicked away from him, both returns set up the Dreadnaughts with a short field.

Ficklen would cap off that drive with a 15-yard touchdown catch and run on a first down from the Railsplitter 15-yard line.

“A lot of the games I get double teamed with a safety over me the whole game,” said Ficklen. “We noticed they played man so we had a lot of shallow routes for me to run.”

The teams traded punts before another big return by Ficklen but on the very next play, the Railsplitters got another pick. They thought they had an 85-yard touchdown run with under a minute thirty remaining in the half, but a hold negated the run and the Railsplitters settled for halftime tied at 14.

At halftime, Dreadnaught head coach Phil Jacobs and staff didn’t change much.

“We didn’t make a lot of adjustments,” said Jacobs. “We just reminded the kids what’s at stake. Two quarters to play, let’s go out and execute the game plan.”

“We went in and said we were playing good football and it was still a tie game,” added Parachek. “We knew we could come out of the half, fire away, and get ahead. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but we still came out at the start of the fourth quarter and took it to them.”

Third Quarter

The Dreadnaughts capitalized on the momentum they had gained after tying the game back up after falling behind early. Dreadnaught senior wide receiver/cornerback Andy Durand had an 85-yard kickoff return to put the Dreadnaughts up 21-14. The Dreadnaught defense would come up with another fourth and short stop. But the Dreadnaughts gave the ball back via an interception on their next drive.

Capitalizing on the turnover, the Railsplitters rattled off 21 straight points, breaking many long runs. First, it was Davis with a 1-yard touchdown run to tie it at 21 with 1:08 left in the third.

The Dreadnaughts fumbled on their next drive, giving the Railsplitters the ball at the Dreadnaught 27-yard line. With 6 seconds left, Davis had a 17-yard touchdown run on a first down to give the Railsplitters the 28-21 lead.

Fourth Quarter

After the Dreadnaughts turned the ball over on downs on the Railspitter 8-yard line to start the last quarter, the Railsplitters struck quickly. Railsplitter senior running back Ethan Brooks had an 89-yard touchdown run on a second down from their own 11-yard line to put the Railsplitter up 35-21 with 9:23 left.

The Dreadnaughts had to punt on their next drive and the Railspllitters scored on another long touchdown run. Again, it was Davis, this time, a 91-yard run to put the Railsplitters up 42-21 with 7:58 left. The Railsplitters outgained the Dreadnaughts in total yards (526-404) but were held scoreless over the last 7:58.

“In the second half when they broke the game wide open and went up 42-21 at that time we thought ‘holy crap,'” said Jacobs. “We had some injuries, kids coming off the field, and playing with some backups who played outstanding. We’re kind of scratching our head going ‘alright we’ll see what happens.'”

With Ficklen having an impact in the return game like he’s had all season, the Railsplitters did what teams have been doing all season. They kicked away from him after his big impact returns earlier in the night.

As a result, the Dreadnaughts got the ball at their own 47-yard line. Parachek found senior tight end Alex Mills who took it down to the Railsplitter 18-yard line. Parachek scrambled on the next play to the Railsplitter 2-yard line and three plays later on a third and goal, Dreadnaught senior fullback Joe Luallen punched it in from close. The extra point was no good after a bad snap and the score was 42-27 with 6:42 remaining.

With 5:40 remaining, Dreadnaught senior middle linebacker David Kreske recovered a fumble and the Dreadnaughts took over at their own 18-yard line. Parachek found Durand deep to get the Dreadnaughts to the Railsplitter 16-yard line and a play later, found Ficklen in the corner to make it 42-34 with 4:35 remaining.

“He’s such a good leader,” said Ficklen on Parachek. “He can see the field so good. To be 6’3 at his age too? He’s just a good athlete for 15 years old I’m not gonna lie.”

After that second score to put them within one possession, Jacobs was debating for going for an onside kick then. Instead, the Dreadnaughts held onto their timeouts.

With time on their side, the Railsplitters tried to run clock, but just went backward. Senior linebacker Evan Chappell had a big tackle in the backfield on first down and Kreske had a stop on second down to make it third and long. The Dreadnaughts used two timeouts, one after the third down, and the next after the Railsplitter ran a draw to make it fourth down with 3:22 remaining.

Starting at their own 40-yard line, the Dreadnaughts faced a fourth down and short at the Railsplitter 17-yard line with the game on the line. Parachek found Ficklen wide open after beating his man for the touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was no good, as Parachek just out threw Ficklen breaking to the sideline. Now it was 42-40, Railsplitters lead with 2:33 remaining.

With 2:32 left in the game, Dreadnaught senior Karl Kerska stepped up to take the onside kick. After a high bounce Ficklen came down the most important ball of the night, the Dreadnaughts recovered the ball at the Railsplitter 43-yard line. On third and long the Railsplitters kept the drive alive for the Dreadnaughts, interfering with Durand to give the Dreadnaughts a first down on the Railsplitter 27-yard line.

“Once we got the fumble, went down and scored, and got the onside kick, it was just crazy,” said Parachek. “You could kind of feel it was gonna happen. I was definitely frustrated throughout the game. I threw three interceptions, knew I could have played better in the first half but we always know the game is never over. We know our team can fight, we know our team can score so we were just going through it.”

A few plays later, on a third down from the 11-yard line, Parachek found Ficklen alone in the end zone after scrambling for his life in the pocket. The Dreadnaughts would score on the 2-point attempt, a grab from Loudermilk over his defender, to give them the 48-42 lead.

“He was supposed to be going on an out route and he must’ve seen something on the other side of the field,” said Parachek on the go-ahead touchdown toss. “I was looking to the left and he wasn’t there so then I scrambled trying to find someone open. I rolled left trying to find someone on that side, got hit, broke that tackle, rolled right, saw Antwan across the field and just threw it up to him.”

“I started hyperventilating,” added Parachek when asked about his reaction when he saw Ficklen come down with the catch. “I couldn’t breathe. I sprinted over to him, celebrated, it was awesome.”

Parachek finished 25-49 for 340 yards with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions on the record-setting night for the Dreadnaughts. Ficklen had 11 catches for 135 yards and 4 touchdowns to lead the receivers, with senior running back Mason Loudermilk added 5 catches for 76 yards and 1 touchdown.

The Railsplitters got the ball back with 1:20 remaining but only went backward. A combination of penalties and pressure from the Dreadnaughts meant that the Railsplitters had to heave the ball on a fourth and long, junior lineman Miles VanFossen was one of those young players that stepped up, with a huge sack on Railsplitter quarterback Ethan Rose to make it fourth and long.

After the pass was knocked down, time had expired at the same time, and bedlam ensued.

The Dreadnaught defense was anchored by its seniors. Senior linebackers David Kreske (12 tackles, 1 TFL) and Evan Chappell (1o tackles, 5 TFL) had huge performances. Senior defensive lineman Nathan Norris had himself a game as well, finishing with 9 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 sacks.

“You know, when you turn the ball over five times you don’t win football games,” said Jacobs after the game. “Our kids persevered, they overcame adversity tonight, I’m so proud. I’m happy for our seniors, our community, our alumni, it’s unbelievable. I’m so glad I get to experience it. I’ve never been a part of anything like it, I’ve been coaching a long time and that victory is number one.”

“Being a part of it is fun,” said Ficklen, a new addition to the team this year after transferring from Adrian, when asked about what it felt like being a part of this historic team. “I like everybody on the team, making new friends meeting new people going to a whole different school, it’s just exciting and different for me. Especially coming from Adrian to Dexter its a big culture shock, a lot different, I like it a lot though.”

Jacobs has led an incredible program turnaround and he began to see signs of the success this past summer during 7 0n 7 passing leagues.

“Last year was a tearing down so to speak,” said Jacobs after acknowledging the rebuilding program he took over in 2017. “This year was laying the foundation. Our seniors this year, juniors last year, were so hungry. They hung on every word, believed everything we said. You could see in the summer that our kids all of the sudden, we believe, this could be a special year. And the kids were talking about winning. And that’s when they’re starting to talk about winning, that’s half the battle right there. They believe they can win, they’re gonna win. That’s where it all started. Its just taken off. We could’ve hung our heads after the game one against Chelsea, here goes another typical season, but we won the next six out of seven games, here we are who would’ve thought?”

This story will be updated with more information as it becomes available.

 

 

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Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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