Earlier this week, Climax-Scotts football coach Kevin Langs said he and his players checked out the weather forecast for Friday night.
“It looked like it was going to be chilly and rainy, making for kind of a muddy field here. And one of the kids came up with the word ‘quagmire.’ And that’s what it was out there tonight, a quagmire, and we were ready for it,” Langs said with a smile on his misty face, while standing on a soggy and churned-up gridiron.
Ready indeed were the Panthers for a ground attack in muddy conditions, as C-S advanced to the second round of the MHSAA D-8 playoffs with a 20-0 victory over SCAA foe Bellevue.
Senior halfback Sam Eshuis scored on a 4-yard run in the first quarter, and another senior C-S halfback, Logan Simmons, scored on bursts of 5 and 1 yards in the second and third quarters, respectively, for the No. 6-ranked Panthers (9-1).
C-S, in the postseason for the 11th straight year, will next face the winner of Saturday’s Eau Claire (4-4) at Mendon (9-0) matchup in the second round.
Coach Doug Blattner’s Bellevue Broncos, which were making their third playoff appearance in the past four years (and their third in school history) ended the season at 6-4. Bellevue also lost 35-14 to C-S during this fall’s regular season.
Eshuis finished with 102 yards rushing on 15 carries for the evening; Simmons had 45 yards on 14 carries; senior Josh Fleck, making his first start of the campaign at fullback, had 31 yards on five attempts; and C-S outgained the Broncos 199 yards to 38 on the ground.
“We rushed the ball well, we ate time off the clock with a lot of our drives, we made some big defensive stops when we needed them … and we were very fortunate to beat a very good Bellevue team that has an explosive offense that we were able to slow down tonight by keeping the ball out of their hands with a lot of long, time-eating drives,” Langs said.
Bellevue senior quarterback Gerald Roberson was able to complete some second-half passes and went 6-for-14 for 87 yards, and senior wingback Tyler Lane had a busy night carrying the ball.
But in the end, the C-S defense — led by Todd Myers with 10 tackles, Simmons with nine and Eshuis with six and a big second-quarter interception — and the Panthers’ determined running attack was too much for the Broncos to handle.
“Sure, we couldn’t get our footing out there tonight to try to open things up more with the pass like we’d wanted to, but both teams had to play in those conditions,” Blattner said.
“But the main thing was, Coach Langs has a great football team — they’re a team with a great winning tradition and we’re a team that’s still on our way back up — and they played their game between the tackles and kept on getting their 3- and 5-yard gains here and there and played a great game. Tonight, they just beat us.”
Climax-Scotts’ opening drive of the game pretty much set the tone for the rest of the battle.
Bellevue kicked off, C-S started 1st-and-10 from its own 20 … and 18 plays, 80 yards and 5 minutes and 2 seconds later, Eshuis ran into the end zone from 4 yards out. The snap for the point-after kick attempt went amiss for the first of two times on the night for C-S, and the Panthers led 6-0.
Then, following an Eshuis interception, Simmons scored his first of two rushing TDs in the game with 2:55 left before halftime on his 5-yarder.
In a link between juniors, quarterback Ethan Vosburg passed to Justin Satterlee for the 2-point conversion, and it was 14-zip.
The Panthers’ final points came with 5:40 remaining in the third period on Simmons’ 1-yard run.
Langs and the rest of his C-S squad won’t know their next opponent until Saturday late afternoon, after the Eau Claire at Mendon game, but Langs said he already senses it will be No. 2-ranked Mendon.
“Us versus Mendon, it’s a game that just needs to be played. We’ve been talking about it all season long,” Langs said.
“So, the way we look at it, bring out the sledgehammer, and let’s play.”