Bulldogs fall inches short in opener

WAKEFIELD – Despite all the fancy offenses, tricked-out uniforms and high-tech gear, sometimes football still comes down to the brute force of 11 against 11.

In one crucial moment, the Gogebic Miners outpushed the Hancock Bulldogs for the game-winning two-point conversion in a 28-26 overtime decision.

Both sides scored on second down in the overtime, Hancock first on an 8-yard pass play from Tanner Kearly to William Lucier, Gogebic following on a 2-yard off-tackle run by Jess Mazzon.?Hancock missed its extra point kick, but Gogebic rendered the miss mathematically irrelevant. With no kicker, the Miners just handed it to the fullback, Paul Buerger, who leaned over center for the game-winning play.

“Paul Buerger just kept his feet moving. He was determined to get it. Our linemen said, let’s run it, run it, run it up the middle and we’re going to stay low and they did what they were going to do,” Gogebic coach Mark Mazzon said.

Hancock had two golden chances in regulation. First, with about six minutes to go, Gogebic tried to get tricky on 4th-and-1 by throwing a quick hitch to the left sideline. Tanner Kearly jumped the route for his second interception of the day, but Gogebic recovered to bring him down at the Miner 28 and Hancock could not capitalize on the ensuing drive.

After Sean Patchin landed on a Gogebic fumble near midfield with 3:34 to play, Hancock only got as far as the Gogebic 21. Hancock coach Matt Walter said confusion over the game situation led to a conservative approach, though two penalties and four consecutive incomplete passes on the critical drive didn’t help either.

“We tried to put the kids in the best position and at the end we didn’t,” Walter said.

The Bulldogs’ 14-12 halftime lead was built on the strength of two converted PATs and stops on Gogebic’s two-point conversions. Gogebic took the lead with an 11-play drive in the third quarter culminating in a five-yard run by Jess Mazzon, then finally tacked on the deuce for a 20-14 lead.

Hancock offered a similar long drive. On 4th-and-6 from the Gogebic 32, Kearly stepped up in the face of pressure and found Lucier leaking into the flat with lots of running room. Lucier beat the Miners to the corner of the endzone to tie the game on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Jack Fenton hooked the PAT wide left and the game stayed tied.

Kearly had an impressive game on both sides of the ball: Two interceptions taken and three touchdown passes thrown, along with 210 pass yards on 14-of-25 attempts.

“We’re going to have to rely on the pass a little more,” Walter said. “We’ve got the guys to do it but some of those guys just have to get a little more experience out there. They made the mistakes getting on the line, getting off the line, we’ve got a lot to do next week.”

Hancock distributed the ball, with Tyler Bailey making six catches for 80 yards, including a second-quarter TD, and four others grabbing at least one reception.

Running the ball was a mixed bag for the Bulldogs. Brandon Barnes crossed the 100-yard mark and scored a first-quarter touchdown, but his 109 came on 24 carries.

Hancock was outrushed by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, with Buerger running for 127 on 21 attempts and Mazzon 80 yards on 12 carries.?”They were running that off-tackle and just killing us and we had to make some changes. We finally started stopping that and they went up the middle. They’re powerful backs, they’re just powerful backs and we just have to get tougher on the inside,” Walter said.

Hancock travels to Baraga Friday in search of a bounce-back, while Gogebic has a non-league game in the Superior Dome against Rudyard coming up.?”It’s how football should be every weekend and I’m glad we came out on top,” coach Mazzon said.