Algonac players hold up a trophy after winning a district football game Friday, November 6, 2015 at Algonac High School.
It was the biggest game on Algonac’s field in years – possibly ever – and the defense played larger than life.
Hungry for its first-ever district title, the Muskrat defense was unfriendly to Almont all night in The Swamp, forcing five three-and-outs. The run-stuffing, hard-hitting defense sparked a 13-0 district finals victory and one of the largest celebrations Algonac’s field has ever hosted.
Of course, the offense showed up when the fans wanted it most.
AJ Garshott – the dual-threat quarterback who has helped lead Algonac to 10-1 on the season – punched in two short touchdowns on the night. When they needed a big run, they went with Joe McKee and his quick wheels that picked up 65 rushing yards. When the Muskrats wanted to pound the middle, they handed it to hard-nosed Shane Asselin, who ran for 75 yards.
“This is just … I can’t even put it into words how I feel,” Asselin said after celebrating with his team. “I just knew we needed those yards and I got them any way I could.”
The Muskrats will next travel to River Rouge (10-1 overall) for their next playoff game in the round of 16.
“(The most satisfying part) is watching our kids, that’s our payday,” Algonac coach Scott Barnhart said. “Even the young kids were up and didn’t get a chance on the field, they’re still as much a part of this … to have this experience together, that’s the whole payday.”
Algonac started the game shooting off fireworks on a long kickoff return by Brendan Piper to midfield. The Muskrats looked to be cruising, but an interception by Tyler Watt halted the opening drive just 16 yards away from the end zone.
A three-and-out forced by Algonac’s defense sent out the Raiders punt team, but a four-yard dud set up Algonac just 36 yards away from the end zone. The Muskrats took advantage of the short field and ended their drive with a three-yard run by Garshott, making it 7-0 after a Noah Todino kick.
Almont opened up the second quarter slowly cruising down the field, chewing up six minutes of game time. However, the fierce Algonac defensive line blew up a fourth down passing play just outside of the red zone.
Algonac then took the ball all the way down to the five yard line, but penalties and strong, pesky pass defense by Almont stopped the drive just in time. That stout defense sent the game into halftime with a 7-0 Algonac advantage.
The third quarter started with more lockdown defense from Algonac, which forced two straight three-and-outs on defense. Almont’s defense was nearly as good, not letting Algonac sniff the red zone the whole quarter to send the game into the fourth quarter at 7-0.
Almont got a drive going to begin the fourth quarter, but that was blown up when Maison Graham had a sack to make it 3rd and 20 at midfield to ruin the driving effort.
Almont punted away to give Algonac the ball at its own 19 yard line with just under 10 minutes to play.
Algonac took the ball and calmly cruised down the field, chewing up seven and a half minutes. The drive also looked dead after an incomplete pass on 4th and long deep in Almont territory, but a pass interference call kept the ball in the Muskrats’ hands.
The Muskrats took that penalty and turned it into a game-icing touchdown with 2:27 to go as Garshott ran it in from two yards out. A blocked kick made it 13-0.
“District champs,” Garshott said when asked what he was thinking when he scored. “But I was still in the game, because even with two minutes left anything can happen.”
Almont tried to move downfield with little time, but an interception by Garrett Sparger just about locked up the game with 1:48 left on the clock.
Sandusky 7, Cass City 0
Deckerville 40, Morrice 20