By Chris Graham, SWMsports.net
The division four state semi-finals were played at Jackson Withington Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It was raining heavily throughout most of the first three quarters, but let up in time for the Edwardsburg Eddies to enjoy a victory celebration on Dungy Field.
The Eddies faced the River Rouge Panthers, and it was an offensive contest in the first half, and River Rouge would have the opening possession of the game. They had a dangerous return man who has returned seven this season, and the Eddies would not give him a chance to return the kickoff in this contest. Edwardsburg’s Merrick Evans would squib or onside each kickoff to neutralize the returner. While there was no threat of a deep return the payment for that decision was excellent starting field position for the Panthers. They would start their first drive at their own 45 yard line. After some jet sweeps by Giovanni Turner that gained significant yards, the Panthers quarterback, Emanuel Ferguson, ran it in from 6 yards out.
Edwardsburg would respond with a 4 minute drive resulting in a 3 yard Kyle Shrider touchdown run. The two point conversion would fail leaving the Eddies trailing 6-7. River Rouge would have 50 yards to go on their next drive, and they would make quick work of it. Ferguson, again, ran it in for the Panthers. This time from 28 yards away.
The Eddies second drive was not their longest, but it was long. Taking more than 6 minutes off the clock they ran 15 plays, and again got on the board with a 1yd run by Shrider. River Rouge made even quicker work on their next drive going 55 yards on 3 plays. It was 3rd and 10 when Ferguson found his receiver for a 55 yard touchdown pass. It was not without controversy as it appeared the receiver pushed the defender, Caden Goggins, to the ground before making the catch.
With the Eddies trailing 21-12 they again were able to march 64 yards. Goggins got some revenge and ran in a 7 yard TD. After an INT by River Rouge the Eddies took over at the 48 yard line of the Panthers, however, they were unable to capitalize as they had a failed fake punt attempt. River Rouge would take it down to the Eddies 1 yard line before being denied by the defense, and eventually the clock. At halftime the Eddies trailed River Rouge 21-18.
The second half started inauspiciously for the Eddies. Goggins was returning the kickoff when the ball was knocked loose. The Panthers started at the Edwardsburg 34 yard line, but the tenacious defense of the Eddies were able to get them to turnover on downs. After the Eddies were able to move the ball to the River Rouge 30 yard line they, too, turned the ball over. The defense would again bail out Edwardsburg as the Panthers went three and out.
The Eddies would take advantage of that opportunity as Matt Hepler led the march to the end zone. He found a nice hole on the edge and took it in from 24 yards out. This was the first lead of the game for Edwardsburg, who would force another Panthers punt. The punt was shanked ending in excellent field position for the Eddies. They started at the 38 yard line of the Panthers, and 3 plays later Chase Sager put 6 more on the board. Sager found the real estate for a 23 yard run to pay dirt. Edwardsburg now had an 11 point lead, 32-21.
There was no looking back for this team. The coaching and play calling was excellent, and the execution of the player matched it. They made one of the longest, most impressive drives, of their season late in the third quarter. The Eddies took more than ten minutes off the play clock. It started with 3.2 second remaining in the third quarter, and ended with 1:35 left in the game. Edwardsburg ran 22 plays covering 92 yards before turning it over on downs at the River Rouge 1 yd line. It was too little, too late for the Panthers. Unable to get out of the hole they dug the Panthers last drive of the season ended at their own 18 yard line.
Edwardsburg prevailed by the final score of 32-21. Highlighted by an unbelievable second half of defense and offense the team’s well roundedness was on full display. The chance to play for the state championship game is now theirs.
Edwardsburg will play the defending state champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central Cougars on Friday night at 7:30pm. The game will be played at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. You can listen to the game live on swmsports.net.