VICTOR - Back and forth they went on a chilly and muddy Friday, Nov. 1.
As one of the better class 8-player playoff contests in the first-round of games, 15th-seeded Midland and 11th-seeded HLV traded blows as both teams tried to make their way up and down a field that was almost completely mud covered in Victor.
“The game started with HLV winning the first quarter, us winning the second quarter and no one really winning the third quarter,” said Midland football coach Lennie Miller, who knew the contest would come down to who could win the fourth and final frame.
“With the way we’ve played the last few weeks, and with what our conditioning has been, we felt confident we would be the team that once again wins the fourth quarter and wins and game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
Tied at 22-22 late in the fourth quarter, this time it was HLV who made the amazing final play as Warrior back-up quarterback Marcus Kolesar scrambled away from numerous Eagle defenders inside the game’s final 10-seconds, and somehow was able to get an arm free and fling the football towards the Midland end zone.
“We thought we had him all wrapped up,” Miller said. “We were starting to wonder why the refs hadn’t blown the whistle yet. Then, somehow their quarterback was able to find an open receiver in the end zone. I still can’t quite figure out what happened? I’ve watched that play on film now more times that I want to talk about. Brennen Hall had their quarterback all wrapped up and with Iziek Soper closing from the edge, the play seemed over yet somehow, he was able to wiggle free enough to make a pass. I still can’t believe it.”
Kolesar tossed up what looked to be a Hail Mary pass that somehow found the arms of teammate Caden Fontinel for a stunning 20-yard touchdown pass play with a mere 8.5 seconds remaining on the fourth quarter clock.
“I think our guys in the defensive backfield bit thinking that we had their quarterback wrapped up and came up enough to leave one guy a little open,” Miller said. “You just have to credit HLV and that quarterback. He made a play when he had to. We thought we had him wrapped up for a sack that could have sent the game to overtime, but it was an incredible play.
“We’ve been playing with fire the last few weeks with these fourth quarter comebacks, and this time it came back to bite us. Sadly, this one ended a very nice season for us.”
The game started with HLV racing to a quick 16-0 first quarter lead scoring touchdowns on their second and third possessions of the game, with both coming on long running plays.
“Coming into the game we knew HLV wanted to run the football and we needed to limit that and not give up and big plays,” said Midland senior quarterback Britan Martens. “We didn’t do a very good job of that early on as their first two touchdowns were long running plays.”
Warrior starting quarterback Carson Cheney broke free for a 53-yard touchdown run with 8:30 to play in the first quarter before Kolesar followed with a 49-yard scoring scamper on the very next possession.
With less than seven minutes gone in the opening quarter, the Eagles were already staring at a 16-0 deficit.
“No one was in panic mode,” Miller said. “We knew we could come back, but we needed to do it sooner than later with the field conditions getting worse by the minute.”
The Midland team did exactly that.
The Eagles rallied as Britan Martens wrapped up a phenomenal 11-play drive that started on their own one-yard-line, with a five-yard touchdown plunge to get the visitors on the board.
And they struck quickly again, too.
Alex Smith picked off a Cheney pass on HLV’s ensuing possession, and raced 26 yards into the end zone. After a successful two-point conversion try, Midland tied the score at 16-16.
The Eagles weren’t done yet.
Midland scored on their third straight possession when Martens blasted into the end zone from three yards out, and the visitors took a 22-16 edge into the halftime break.
“We were doing a good job running the football in the first half, but once the field conditions began to deteriorate in the second half, we struggled running it,” Miller said. “That’s rare for us, but that tells you just how bad things were out there. Of course, both teams had to play in it, but we seemed to struggle more than we have all year running the football, and it cost us.”
The Warriors went to the air early in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 22-22 with a 28-yard pass play before their miracle game-winning heave ended it.
“That’s not the way you’d like to go out, with a loss like that,” Martens said. “But it’s been a fun last couple of years. We’ve got a lot to be proud of and accomplished a lot. In the end I guess everything happens for a reason. We talked about that after the game, it’s just going to be tough coming up with what that reason is.”
Mid-way through the fourth quarter it appeared Midland was going to be the team taking a fourth quarter lead as the Eagles marched inside the HLV 10-yard-line only to have the drive ended with an interception in the end zone.
“I think HLV made some adjustments and we struggled a bit to answer,” Miller said. “They did a good job against us and you just have to tip your cap to them. We had our chances.”
Midland finished with 316 yards of total offense, with 151 of those coming on the ground while Martens threw for another 175. Martens also led the ground game coming through with 129 yards on 23 attempts.
“Our goal there on HLV’s last drive was to just get it to overtime and start fresh,” Miller said. “We didn’t quite make it. The end was like a dagger in the heart, but the boys played their hearts out and have nothing to hang their heads about.”