Photos by Scott DeCamp and Letisha Mikkelsen | CatchMark
REED CITY – Dylan Everett ran with speed and power in Friday night’s Division 6 district championship football game at Reed City.
When it was winning time, Montague’s workhorse senior running back showed off some fancy footwork and a killer instinct as well in a 35-22 victory for the Wildcats’ fifth straight district title in the CatchMark SportsNet Game of the Week.
In a well-rounded game by Montague, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Everett pointed the way with a hard-earned 197 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. On his last carry of the night, facing fourth-and-1 from the Reed City 23, Everett showed some nifty moves on the way to the end zone for a TD that put the game away with 44.3 seconds remaining.
“That was an awesome cut. He read that perfectly – cut outside, cut back inside and got the touchdown and sealed the game,” Montague senior center Hayden McDonald said about Everett’s victory-sealing run. “It was awesome.”
The reigning Division 6 state champion Wildcats (8-3) advance to next weekend’s regional finals, where they’ll face the winner of Saturday’s district final between Millington (10-0) and Lansing Catholic (9-1).
The Coyotes, champions out of the Central State Activities Association Gold Division, close with a 9-2 record.
“We were just looking to get the first down and end the game, you know. Our linemen did a great job … they got a good push and I bounced out a little bit, did a little extra, and that set the game apart,” Everett said.
“It felt amazing.”
Unranked Montague, which shared the West Michigan Conference title with Oakridge and Whitehall, took control early against No. 5 Reed City.
Everett capped the game’s first drive with a 2-yard TD run barely four minutes into the contest. The Wildcats went up 14-0 with 4:12 left in the opening quarter on a beautifully thrown and caught 51-yard TD toss from senior Andrew Kooi to senior Tugg Nichols.
The teams alternated TDs in the second quarter. Reed City got a 5-yard run from Nick Wirgau and 2-yard run from Noah Morgan. Montague senior Colton Blankstrom caught a 9-yard scoring pass from Kooi, then sophomore Paul Olson scored on a 21-yard pass play from Kooi that put the Wildcats up 28-14 with 8.8 seconds left in the half.
The Coyotes pulled within 28-22 midway through the third quarter on Morgan’s 25-yard run and Bryson Hughes’ two-point conversion run. With a couple defensive stops, including a big one on fourth-and-1 from their own 43 with 5:48 left, the Wildcats kept the upper hand.
“I’m so proud of our guys for their effort and execution tonight. The first half was awesome on offense. We played great, made some big plays,” first-year Montague coach Justin Dennett said. “Defensively, we were solid – we gave up a few big plays.
“And then in the second half, they came right back. It was a close game the whole second half and our guys just executed at the end and came through the win. Just proud of our effort and how we finished the game.”
Kooi followed up his big performance in last week’s 41-7 playoff-opening rout of Central Montcalm from the CSAA Gold with 7-of-14 passing for 127 yards with the three TDs and one interception.
Montague edged Reed City in total offense, 317-300. Hughes and Morgan both rushed for 100 yards for the Coyotes, totaling 113 and 103, respectively.
Junior Izac Jarka led Montague with nine tackles, including a key fourth-down sack late in the third quarter on a corner blitz. Blankstrom and McDonald had eight stops apiece, while junior Silas Jancek made six tackles.
Dylan Schebil paced Reed City with six tackles, while Logan Ringler had five.
“Our defense was a little iffy at times, but most of the game, we played really well,” McDonald said. “We all made some plays – I made some plays, Tugg made some plays. Everyone made some plays – it was awesome.”
Kooi said his team “brought the energy,” especially on the sideline.
Montague’s first-year starting quarterback believes a strong week of practice benefitted the Wildcats as well.
“A great week of practice always helps, too. We had a great week of practice this week. Picking up each other when we fall down, not getting angry at each other. I think that’s the main reason we pulled away with the ‘W’ there.”
Reed City coach Scott Shankel said he was “super proud” of the way his guys played all season long.
Against a defending state champion, however, the margin for error tends to shrink.
“The first half, we had a couple coverages and that really hurt us. You can’t give a defending state champion those points at all. You’ve got to make ’em earn ’em, and we just had a few blown coverages, a few blown assignments and they took advantage of it,” Shankel said.
“Second half, our kids kind of settled in and started making plays defensively, but just didn’t make some plays down the stretch offensively when we needed to. But I’m super proud of how the kids have played all year long.”
Being battle-tested through the season seems to benefit Montague.
A brutally tough schedule, featuring Division 4 contender Edwardsburg in the season opener and perennial Division 5 power Portland, tends to pay off this time of the season.
“When you see the teams we played in the regular season with Edwardsburg and then finished with Portland, those games prepared us for tonight and, you know, that’s why we came out on top because of the tough schedule we play,” Dennett said. “Our guys are used to this tough competition and these tough games, so it was just awesome tonight to come out with the win.”
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