WYOMING - Nothing was going to stop the Midland football team from extending their school-record of making an amazing fifth-straight class 8-player playoff berth in the 2019 season-finale Friday, Oct. 25.
Though visiting Lansing Kee sure did a good job of trying to play spoiler.
“We knew that Lansing Kee matched up well with us,” said Eagle football coach Lennie Miller, who guided his team to a 36-18 victory over the Kee Hawks clinching yet another post-season berth for the powerful program in Wyoming.
“We also knew this would be a good ballgame, too and that’s pretty much exactly how things played out.”
However, when it came down to making the plays in crunch time, it was Midland who did it pulling away from the visitors going on a 16-0 fourth quarter run.
“Early on we made it a priority to throw the football and we had some success with that right away,” said Miller, as the Eagles scored on their very first play from scrimmage when quarterback Britan Martens found receiver Jensen Dodge open for what turned out to be a sensational 54-yard scoring strike.
“But when it came down to the nitty gritty at the end of the game, we went back to the running game and Alex (Smith) absolutely took over. Lansing Kee didn’t have an answer for him.”
After the Kee Hawks scored late in the third quarter to pull to within two points of the hosts at 20-18, Midland (7-2, 5-2) took over as Smith rushed for a 32-yard score early in the fourth before Martens added a 26-yard touchdown to clinch the triumph, and playoff berth with a little over two-minutes to play.
“That first touchdown of the game was a new play that we just conceived this week,” Miller said. “We put two wide receivers out and when they broke off down the field Kee had to make some quick decisions. Jensen did a great job of going up and fighting for the football and got into the end zone. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the game.”
The Kee Hawks answered with a first quarter touchdown of their own and but after a Martens scored on a one-yard run late in the opening frame, the hosts had a 14-6 advantage.
“I think after we scored so quickly a lot of people thought we might just dominate this game and cruise to the win,” Miller said. “We wanted to light the fuse with that quick strike and got that done, but Kee battled back and made it a game. I was confident we would be able to finish this thing out though. Our conditioning just takes over games late and this was another case of that. We had more left in the tank at the end of the game than they did, and that was once again the difference.”
Martens found Dodge for another touchdown in the second quarter, lofting a perfect pass to the corner of the end zone that Dodge went up and grabbed, giving the Eagles a 20-6 lead.
The visitors came back yet again however, scoring with four-minutes left before the half to make it 20-12.
“I liked the way we were able to get our passing game to come back to life in this one,” Miller said. “We haven’t done that much this year and this just gives HLV (Midland’s playoff opponent) something else to scout now. They know now that we can throw the ball around a little bit too.”
The Eagles finished with 179 passing yards in the game while also adding 137 more on the ground, led by 90 from Smith on just eight carries.
“Our defense has set the tone for us all year and they did another nice job against Kee,” Miller said. “Iziek Soper really stepped up and had a big night and was all over the field for us. I think he’s really found his niche and is rounding into a very nice football player.”
Soper tallied 15 tackles for a Midland defense that yielded 245 yards of total offense to the Kee Hawks while also recording a quarterback sack.
Austin Weinschenk and Smith led the Eagles with 16 tackles each. Hunter Shoaff added 10 tackles and another quarterback sack.
“It’s always emotional playing your last home game, especially for the seniors,” Miller said. “I’ve known all these kids since they were in the fifth grade playing youth football, but to also know they’re walking off the field with a win and they get to keep playing next week in the playoffs is very rewarding.”
Smith, Wilson Buckwalter, Dodge, Martens, Sawyer Hansen, Trevor Fitzpatrick, Shoaff, Lincoln Brandenburg, Brennen Hall and Weinschenk all celebrated leaving Wyoming as one of the most successful senior classes in school history.
“They’re not done yet either,” Miller said. “They want to make some noise in the playoff, too.”