Maroons dazzle, defeat Gremlins

MENOMINEE – Houghton crashed head-on into 120 years of Menominee football tradition and 48 minutes of Maroon shock and awe Saturday afternoon at Walton Blesch Field.

Twelve plays into their Division 5 pre-district playoff game, the Maroons had a 35-0 lead over the Gremlins en route to a 63-6 rout.

“They are as advertised,” Houghton coach Karl Borree said of the unbeaten and top-ranked Maroons. “All three of their running backs had a dominant game and they were dominant up front.

“Our kids have never experienced that kind of athleticism. We were outplayed, outcoached and outskilled.”

Borree agreed to start the running clock late in the second quarter after Menominee scored on its first five possessions. Houghton didn’t register a first down until seven minutes into the third quarter with the Maroons up 56-0.

“Everyone was undefeated going into today,” Menominee coach Joe Noha said. “We played like we’re undefeated today. A great team effort. The offense, defense and special teams were all on it.”

As if the Gremlins didn’t face long enough odds heading into the game, Friday night’s Division 5 results just sharpened the Maroons’ intensity.

“We had a lot of confidence but you can never tell,” tailback Justin Brilinski explained. “Look what happened to (unbeaten) Jackson Lumen Christi last night (a 40-35 upset loss to Parchment). That could happen to us.”

Menominee scored the first time it touched the ball when the right side of the Maroon line wiped out the Gremlins’ pursuit and Brilinski sprinted 32 yards untouched to the end zone.

Devon Harris, showing more swerves and spins than a Tilt-A-Whirl, grabbed a punt and tore through Houghton for a 62-yard TD return 2 1/2 minutes later. Evan Pohlman broke his own record for extra points in a season with his 54th PAT.

A 13-yard pass from Brilinski to Harris and James Brown’s 25-yard jaunt while shedding tackles with a stiff-arm, set up Brown’s 2-yard score with 4:57 left in the first quarter.

After the Maroon defense forced the fourth straight three-and-out, the Brilinski to Harris combination clicked again for a 12-yard gain. Menominee went backwards 15 yards after a fumble, but Harris put the Maroons back into the fast-forward mode again with a 23-yard scoring dash. Pohlmann’s PAT pumped the lead to 28-0 with a minute left in the first quarter.

A shanked 10-yard punt gave the Maroons the ball at the Gremlins’ 25. Menominee struck for six more on first down when Harris fired a 25-yard scoring pass to Tyler Howell with :22 seconds left in the first quarter.

“Every time they touched the ball they were going to score,” said Borree. “Our goal all year has been to get better every game. Today we didn’t get better. We fumbled the ball and we had penalties we never have.”

After Aeron Forsberg blocked a punt, Menominee was pounding on the door again when the Gremlins’ John Kirk pounced on a tumbling fumble at the Maroon 40.

Ben Collaer lofted a perfect lead pass to Tristan Foltz for a 36-yard scoring strike, but a false-start flag wiped out the touchdown.

Ryne Francour swiped a pass on the next play and Brown busted through the Gremlins for a 79-yard touchdown with 5:24 left in the half.

It took the Maroons just two plays on their next series to jack the margin to 49-0. Devon Barley blasted through for a 26-yard run, lunging to the 1 after being hit at the 4. Brown showed off his vertical lift with a leap to the goal line on the next play. Pohlmann’s seventh PAT stretched the lead to 49-0 with 1:12 left in the half.

Four plays into the third quarter the Maroons were back in the end zone on a 47-yard sprint by Brilinski through a gaping hole off left tackle.

“This team remains very hungry,” Noha said.”As long as we stay hungry and focused and the execution remains, we’re going to be in the hunt.”

The Gremlins smashed the goose egg with a 12-play 78-yard march. A 17-yard pass from Collaer to Cole Jepsen sparked the drive and Foltz pulled in a 9-yard pass from Collaer in the middle of the end zone 17 seconds into the fourth quarter.

“It was a good experience for us to see the storied Menominee program,” said Borree. “That’s what we want to become.”

The Maroons’ second wave of offensive firepower added the final touchdown. An 11-yard run by Colin Nerat and 13-yard gain by Devon Barley set up Barley’s 11-yard TD run, climaxed by him wiping out a defender at the goal line.

“Everybody got to play. It was a great effort,” Noha said. “It’s a testament to how we played as a team.”

Pohlmann’s ninth PAT of the game broke his own school record of eight set against Gladstone this season and also set a U.P. record for consecutive extra point kicks in a game. Pohlmann’s 61 PATs on the season is also a U.P. record.

The Maroons (10-0) play host to Grayling (9-1) Saturday at 1 p.m. The Vikings defeated Kingsford 42-25 Saturday.