The task of ending Lansing’s year-long drought in the MHSAA high school football playoffs rests on the shoulders of Sexton.
But it runs through all three city schools.
Entering the season’s final two weeks, Everett and Eastern could only play spoiler the rest of the way. The Big Reds needed to win-out, but winning-out would mean taking down their city counterparts, which, at this point, were trying to extend the drought another year.
So far, so good.
Sexton moved one step closer to a postseason berth Friday night by holding off the Vikings, 18-13, at home. The Big Reds (5-3, 4-2) can guarantee themselves a playoff bid with a regular-season finale victory over the Quakers next week.
“We wanted to worry about Sexton, and Sexton only,” coach Dan Boggan said. “We didn’t talk about any spoiling or anything like that. We just wanted to make sure we won tonight and put ourselves in a situation where we are one game closer to qualifying for the state playoffs.”
Junior tailback Cody Blankenburg took little time giving Sexton an early lead. On his team’s second offensive play from scrimmage, the 5-foot-4 Blankenburg darted up the gut for a 69-yard touchdown run. The Big Reds took a 12-0 lead on their ensuing possession after senior tailback Dijimon Carter’s 6-yard touchdown scamper. The score was setup by two 10-yard runs by Blankenburg.
After three empty possessions, Everett jumped on the scoreboard when Isaiah Clark, who had a team-high 84 rushing yards, ran the ball in the end zone from three yards out. The Vikings (2-6, 2-4) went into the half trailing, 12-7.
Sexton pushed its lead out to 15 on the opening drive of the second half. The Big Reds put together a seven-play, 66-yard drive that was capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jackson Barnes to tight end Neal Prince. Blankenburg, who had a game-high 170 rushing yards, had runs of 28 and 36 yards during the series.
Everett came right back on its next possession when quarterback Kenny Schmidt found Timas Koko for a 6-yard touchdown reception, cutting Sexton’s lead to 18-13.
The defensive front seven for the Vikings stifled the Big Reds’ rushing attack following their score to open the half. But the Sexton defense was able to counterpunch, and helped the team hold on to the tight lead the rest of the away, which is something the Big Reds struggled with just a season ago.
“There was a lot of experience on the field,” Blankenburg, who also plays defensive back, said of his team’s solid defensive performance late. “We’ve been in those situations last year, and we weren’t going to lose.”
The Everett defense put the team in good position to get one last crack at a game-winning touchdown, but, on third and 8, the Big Reds’ Khari Foy-Walton made a 34-yard catch with just over one minute to play to seal the game.
“We tried to spoil their playoff chances,” Koko said. “We were able to (move the ball), but we just couldn’t punch in points. That’s been a problem all season for us.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.