By Mike Williamson- email@example.com
Picture by Tran Longmoore
It was one of those hold your breath moments that can happen in an athletic event. One team and its fans will be celebrating and the other team will be devastated.
Saturday’s Division 1 Regional football final between Saline and Rockford was one of those moments.
In overtime Saline had taken a 13-6 lead on an MJ Griffin one-yard touchdown run and JT Turner extra point. Rockford had just scored on an 8-yard TD pass to cut the lead to 13-12 and elected to go for the two-point conversion and the win, setting up the hold your breath moment for both teams. Rockford converts and they win the Regional title. Saline holds and they are Regional champions and move on to the state semifinals.
The Rams attempted a run to the left side of the line where Jaiden Friesen was stonewalled by the Hornets defense led by Connor Terech, Alex Morrison, Jonah Ashby, Isaac Zambeck, and a host of other Hornets stopping Friesen at the one-yard line and Saline and their fans celebrated.
It was a fitting end as the Saline defense led by their defensive line and linebackers had been so strong all season and they stepped up one more time sending the Hornets to the Division 1 semifinals Saturday against Clarkston at Okemos High School at 1:00 PM. The winner of the game will move on the Ford Field at the State Championship Thanksgiving weekend.
The Regional final was a defensive battle as both teams defense’s dominated. Rockford outgained the Hornets 217-171 in total offense and held Saline to a season-low 24 yards rushing. A big part of that was when Hornets leading rusher Brendan Munday went out with an injury and did not return in the second half.
After a scoreless first half, Saline struck first in the third quarter. Andrew Arbaugh hit Brendan Murphy with a 49-yard pass and it appeared Murphy had reached the endzone, but it was ruled that he had stepped out at the two, setting up a first and goal.
The Rams stuffed the Hornets on three runs and Turner kicked an 18-yd field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Turner kicked a 35-yard field goal with 8:50 left in the fourth to make it 6-0 and the Hornets defense continued to shut down the Rams.
Saline lined up to punt with 4:30 left and Rockford struck with a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown to tie the score at 6-6. A huge play was made when Noah Nelson broke through and blocked the extra point to keep the game tied.
Rockford intercepted a pass late and drove to the Hornets 27 and tried a 44-yard field goal on the final play, but the kick was short sending the game into overtime.
Griffin ran the first play of overtime for 8-yards to the two and on the next play busted across to give the Hornets the lead setting up the Hornets defensive heroics and the hold your breath moment.
Arbaugh finished 12 0f 18 for 147 yards. Murphy caught four passes for 95 yards. Griffin caught four passes for 15 yards and had 15 yards rushing including the game-winning touchdown.
Terech led the defense with nine tackles, while Morrison had 6.5. Monty Green and Brad Wisniewski each added six tackles.