Pewamo-Westphalia ended its football season with a record of 10-2 after falling to Harbor Beach, 31-14, in the Division 7 regionals on Saturday.
Ross Wolniakowski and William Fandel scored touchdowns for P-W, which nearly overturned a 17-0 deficit and came to within three points early in the fourth quarter. But Harbor Beach (11-1) scored twice, including a late interception return for a touchdown, to deny P-W what would have been its third consecutive regional title.
“When it came right down to it, they made plays and we didn’t,” P-W coach Jeremy Miller said. “We were evenly matched in some areas, but they exploited some areas where they had an advantage. We weren’t able to do that.”
The 14 points scored was the Pirates’ lowest in any game this year. P-W went into the contest averaging over 38 points per game, but simply could not get into an offensive rhythm.
Defending Division 8 state champion Harbor Beach, also the Pirates, gave up more than 14 only twice this season, one of them in its only loss, to undefeated Division 5 semifinalist Menominee.
“They score a bunch of points, so to hold this team to 14 is just outstanding,” Harbor Beach coach Troy Schelke said. “We expected a dogfight and we got a dogfight. P-W is a great program and a great team, they came charging back, but our guys responded and made some plays.”
The game hinged on a few key plays, starting with the opening kickoff, which Harbor Beach junior Joshua Schelke returned 78 yards to the P-W 11. The defense held, but Harbor Beach kicked a 28-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest.
Harbor Beach scored on another 78-yard play, this time a long touchdown pass from Eli Kraft to Travis Essenmacher, to take a 9-0 lead with 4:28 left in the first quarter.
Mitchell Hirn scored on a 3-yard run, the last play of a 9-play, 61-yard Harbor Beach scoring drive, and the two-point conversion made the score 17-0.
P-W responded on the next drive, scoring on an 11-yard run by Wolniakowski to cut the lead to 17-6 at the half.
“Our kids have a lot of fight in them, they weren’t going to go out quietly,” Miller said. “There wasn’t ever a sense that we were out of this football game, even when it was 17-0. We just stressed to the guys to come out and fight. They did, and I’m proud of them for that.”
P-W’s defense held on fourth and inches at their own 17-yard line, and drove 83 yards the other way, capped off with a 3-yard pass from Kyle Nurenberg to Fandell on the second play of the fourth quarter that made it a 3-point game.
But that would be as close as these Pirates would get. A disputed pass interference penalty on P-W at the goal line on third down gave Harbor Beach new life, and it scored two plays later on a 5-yard keeper by Kraft to restore its 10-point cushion.
“It looked like we had pretty good coverage on that, but it just didn’t go our way,” Miller said. “You take away a couple of plays and it’s a different ballgame, but that’s what happens in football.”
The Harbor Beach defense took over from there, and a pick-six by Kraft on a desperation heave on fourth down with 1:57 made the final score 31-14.
“I think we did some things well, but we also made some costly mistakes. Harbor Beach is going to take advantage of those,” Miller said. “I hope they go on to win the state title. I’m a Harbor Beach fan now.”
|Harbor Beach Community||9||8||0||14||—||31|
HB: Nick Hessling 21 field goal
HB: Travis Essenmacher 78 pass from Eli Kraft (kick failed)
HB: Mitchell Hirn 3 run (pass good)
PW: Ross Wolniakowski 12 run (pass failed)
PW: Billy Sandal 3 pass from Kyle Nurenberg (run good)
HB: Kraft 5 run (Hessling kick)
HB: Kraft 40 interception return (Hessling kick)
|Total Net Yards||311||306|
Rushing — Pewamo-Westphalia, Kyle Nurenberg 17-58, A.J. Keusch 3-10, Ross Wolniakowski 17-89, Dustin Smith 1-3, Aaron Rademacher 3-10.
Passing — Pewamo-Westphalia, Kyle Nurenberg 12-27-2-141.
Receiving — Pewamo-Westphalia, Lane Simon 3-31, Aaron Rademacher 2-15, Dylan Smith 2-28, Chase Platte 1-7, Jordan Krausz 1-38, Billy Sandal 3-22.