CENTRAL CITY - Knowing that their playoff lives were on the line, the Midland football team put their fans and their coaches through the ringer at Central City Friday, Oct. 18.
“Things sure got a little too close for comfort there at the end of the game,” said Eagle football coach Lennie Miller, as he saw his team keep their post-season hopes alive for another week with a come-from-behind 54-45 triumph over an extremely scrappy Wildcat team.
“In the fourth quarter we got into scramble-mode and I was worried we weren’t going to have enough time to come back and win the game. Then, all of a sudden, we had the lead and there was too much time left on the clock. I went from worrying we didn’t have enough time to worrying about Central City having too much time to come back win the game. It was a wild night.”
Midland (6-2, 4-2) jumped to a 24-15 second quarter lead before the Wildcats rallied scoring the game’s next five touchdowns to take a commanding 45-24 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
“We were very frustrated early on as the officials kept calling us for blocks in the back in the free blocking zone and it seemed like anytime we got anything going, there was a flag on the field,” Miller said. “They were actually doing it to both teams. Central City had some calls on them, too, but we finally had to adjust to the way they were calling the game, but early on that really took us out of what we wanted to do. We couldn’t run our trap game and that took about 25-percent of our offense away from us right there.”
In the second half, and more importantly, the fourth quarter, the Eagles began to take over.
“Our conditioning gave us the edge in the second half and most of the fourth quarter,” Miller said. “We just started to run straight ahead with the football and plowed through them.”
Trailing by 21 points in the final frame, Midland battled back scoring on their first drive of the fourth quarter when Britan Martens, who had a huge night, rushed into the end zone from three-yards out.
After a successful two-point conversion, the Eagles were down 45-32.
After the Eagle defense forced a Central City punt, Midland blocked it setting the team up for another quick score.
Martens tossed the football to running back Alex Smith who then in turn threw it to an open Jensen Dodge for a 27-yard scoring pass play.
All of a sudden Midland was within seven points trailing 45-38.
“You could feel the momentum shifting,” Miller said. “We had some huge defensive stops in there, too.”
With the Wildcat offense driving and time running out on their playoff dreams, Jensen Dodge stepped up and had a huge interception setting up the Eagle offense at the Central City one-yard-line.
One play later Martens was in the end zone again. After Martens scored on the two-point conversion, amazingly the Eagles had a 46-45 lead.
“Jensen was amazing,” Miller said. “That’s a senior coming through when everything was on the line. Everyone stepped up and got the job done for us when it looked like we were done. They just refused to lose.”
The Eagle defense stood strong once again forcing the Wildcats off the field after a failed fourth-and-6 try by the hosts and Midland quickly had the ball back again.
“This time I was hoping we’d be able to take a little more time off the clock, but Brit had an open lane to the end zone and took it,” Miller said. “I guess I can’t blame the kid for that. He had a great night running the football for us.”
Martens scored his sixth touchdown, this one with 54-seconds remaining and after Austin Weinschenk grabbed a huge two-point conversion pass from Martens, Midland had a two-possession lead 54-45.
Dodge sealed the win picking off Wildcat quarterback Nick Reid to clinch the win with 37-seconds to play.
“I am so proud of these kids,” Miller said. “They were able to play through adversity and with the pressure of the game knowing if we lose, we’re done. The right people stepped up at the right time.
“I told everyone at the half when we were down 31-24, ‘is this really how you want to go out?’ I think they answered that question.”
Martens was absolutely sensational rushing for 341 yards on 28 carries while also throwing for another 103 yards completing 12-of-21 passes.
Martens’ first three touchdowns came on runs of 65, 43 and 62 yards in the first half as the team was struggling to find their identity.
“If the RPI plays out like I hope and think it will, I expect us to be in the playoffs,” said Miller, as Midland’s RPI ranking jumped from 20 to 16 (the top-16 teams earn state playoff berths) after the win.
“We absolutely needed this game and when it looked like we weren’t going to be able to or allowed to get the job done, the boys found a way to win,” Miller said. “We just need to take care of business against Lansing Kee on Friday night and give this amazing senior class a great last home game on Senior Night and celebrate it with a playoff berth. That, would be perfect.”
Smith added to the Eagle offense rushing for 55 yards as the team tallied 532 yards of total offense on the night.
Weinschenk led the Midland defense with nine tackles while Sawyer Hansen added eight more.