WYOMING - With a win and you’re quite possibly in the playoffs and lose and you are out scenario, the Midland football team’s game hosting Springville Friday, Oct. 11, was the most pressure-filled of the year to date.
And the two teams played like their lives were at stake, too, as the game went right down to the wire.
The Orioles, with an RPI at No. 11, needed the win just as much as the Eagles, who came into the game with an RPI of 21 (top-16 teams make the playoffs), and through four intense quarters of play on an extremely cold and windy night, it was Midland who stayed in the class 8-player playoff hunt with a hard fought 24-22 triumph.
“With us in third-place in the district, it’s all a numbers game now with the RPI and we absolutely had to have this game if we wanted any chance of getting into the playoffs,” said Eagle football coach Lennie Miller, as his team took a 24-6 lead early in the fourth quarter and then held off a furious late Springville rally.
“Coming into the game we knew we needed to be able to establish the run to win, and we were able to do exactly that. Springville keyed on Alex Smith so Brit (Martens) shredded them running the football.”
Martens was sensational, and unstoppable rushing for three touchdowns in the game while throwing for another and finished with 281 yards of total offense, including 254 on the ground.
“We knew this game was going to be more of a marathon than a sprint, and we wanted to control things with the ground game, especially considering the weather conditions being what they were. It was a very cold and windy night and we knew that was going to make throwing the football that much more difficult. So, we handed the ball to Brit and just let him go to work.”
Which is exactly what the star All-State senior did, scoring the game’s first touchdown after Austin Weinschenk blocked a Springville punt setting the Midland (5-2, 3-2) offense up at the Oriole 3-yard-line.
One play later Martens was in the end zone and the hosts led 6-0 with 6:50 to play in the second quarter.
“The way the game started it looked like it might be a low scoring game with both defenses playing well,” Miller said. “Who was going to be able to step up and make a play, and we got the first one with that blocked punt.”
Midland’s defense continued to hold strong until the Orioles found success in the passing game with just one-minute remaining in the half when Caleb Weber got behind Eagle defenders and raced 47 yards into the end zone after hauling in a perfect third down pass from quarterback Kyle Koppes.
“That was one of the few mistakes we made in the game,” Miller said. “We talked about not allowing anyone behind us being third and long, and they made the play.”
With the two teams tied at 6-6 at the half, it was Midland who responded in the final 24 minutes.
After being forced to punt on their first two possessions of the second half, the Eagles took advantage of another Springville mistake.
Martens picked off a Koppes pass and returned it to the Oriole 3-yard-line and one play later scored his second touchdown of the game giving the hosts a 12-6 lead they would not lose the rest of the way.
After the Eagle defense stopped Springville on downs, the offense went back to work scoring a second straight third quarter touchdown as Martens found Jensen Dodge open on a 21-yard scoring strike.
“We were taking advantage of the opportunities presented to us and momentum was swinging our way,” Miller said. “We weren’t done yet either.”
Midland extended their advantage to 24-6 early in the fourth quarter when Martens culminated a 7-play, 39-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge.
“We knew Springville was going to make a run at us,” Miller said. “They’ve had success with that passing game all season long and we knew being the situation what it was that they had to go back to that to get into the game.”
That’s exactly what the Orioles did, scoring a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns, the final coming with a little over two-minutes to play in the game.
“Springville kicked the ball to us instead of going for the on-side kick, and we knew we just needed a couple of first downs to win the game,” Miller said. “Brit went out and got them for us.”
The hosts finished with 302 yards of total offense as Smith added 22 yards on the ground while the Eagle defense limited a high-octane Oriole offense to 183 total yards.
“I thought that was our best defensive game of the year,” Miller said. “We simplified things this week so the kids could go out there and play fast to the ball. It worked very well. Brit’s two interceptions were huge for us, too.”
The win allows Midland sole possession of third place in the district and currently sits ranked 20th in the newest RPI rankings with a playoff berth still at least a possibility.
“We still have to take care of business against Central City and Lansing Kee,” Miller said. “But, by winning this game we’ve at least given ourselves a shot at making the post-season for a fifth-year in a row.”
Martens also led the Midland defense making seven tackles to go with the two interceptions while Dodge and Iziek Soper added six tackles each.