Groves is undefeated after nail-biting win over Pioneer

Groves is undefeated after nail-biting win over Pioneer


Groves is undefeated after nail-biting win over Pioneer


Defensive back Dylan Sutton (4) helped lead Birmingham Groves to a nail-biting 18-14 victory over Pioneer Friday. The win allowed Groves to finish with just its second undefeated regular-season in program history.

Defensive back Dylan Sutton (4) helped lead Birmingham Groves to a nail-biting 18-14 victory over Pioneer Friday. The win allowed Groves to finish with just its second undefeated regular-season in program history.

Birmingham Groves made football history Friday night, but it didn’t come without some major late-game drama.

The Falcons hung on to register a confidence-building 18-14 non-league triumph over visiting Ann Arbor Pioneer to finish with a perfect 9-0 record. It marks just the second time Groves has ever made it through a regular-season schedule without suffering a loss.

Groves needed a pair of stellar defensive stands against talented Pioneer in the game’s final two minutes to register its first undefeated season since 1978.

“This is a huge accomplishment for us,” said a relieved head coach Brendan Flaherty, still dripping from a post-huddle water soaking. “It’s just kind of setting in now. But it’s just so great for our school, the players and the administration and our senior class in the building, not just the football players. They are just a great group of kids. It’s cool and it’s a neat accomplishment.

“I’m happy beyond words, but I have to be honest,” he said. “I’m not shocked. I believe in them. I believe in our guys.”

Like it has all year, the Groves defense saved the day with some tremendous fourth-quarter play.

Pioneer scored at the 7:31 mark of the final quarter to take its first lead of the game — 14-11.

The Falcons, however, showing tremendous resolve, scored on their very next possession.

Sparked by a sizzling 49-yard kick-off return by Nick Moore and aided by a 15-yard personal-four penalty to Pioneer, the Falcons took over at the Pioneer 14-yard line. Senior CJ Boswell rushed to the 2-yard line, but fumbled the ball, which he recovered at the 6-yard line.

Senior quarterback Beau Kewley then powered into the middle of the line and slithered into the end zone for the touchdown. Christian Sosa booted the extra point to give Groves the 18-14 lead at the 6:17 mark.

Pioneer took over at its own 18-yard line. The Pioneers, who finished second behind nationally-ranked Saline in the Southeastern Conference Red Division standings, marched methodically down to the Groves 20-yard line.

On a fourth-and-nine situation, Pioneer quarterback John Kunec’s pass into the end zone did not connect with receiver Jordan Harris. The Falcons took over at their own 20-yard line with just 57 seconds remaining and seemed to be in control.

However, two plays later, the Falcons fumbled and Pioneer corner back Terius Wheatley recovered. Pioneer took over at the Groves 22-yard line with 44 seconds left.

They lost 11 yards on their first two possessions, but then Kunec connected for a 24-yard pass play to highly-touted junior running back Antjuan Simmons who was tackled at the Groves 9-yard line.

Kunec threw one incomplete pass, and then hit Justin Collier with a short pass out of the backfield. Collier was tackled at the 5-yard line, but time ran out as the referees were spotting the ball.

The Falcons and their emotionally-drained fans stormed the field to celebrate this historic triumph. Flaherty had nothing but praise for his defense which has allowed just 58 points all season.

“I think those guys (on defense) are just resilient,” said Flaherty. “They rise up and make plays. For whatever reason, I felt like we would pull it out. It sounds silly, but I just felt in my heart we would pull it out. I’m just proud of them and they work their tails off.

“They’ve been together a long time,” he said. “A lot of those guys on defense have been together for six, seven years from little league all the way through. They are some of the most competitive guys I’ve ever been, and they are smart. It’s fun being around them.”

Groves took an 11-0 lead on its first two possessions of the game.

Junior Earnest Allen rushed in from 2-yards out for the touchdown and Sosa booted a 35-yard field goal which soared through the goal posts like a line drive.

In the second quarter, Kunec hit tight end Corey Frenette with a 7-yard touchdown pass to make it an 11-7 game at the half. Pioneer took its only lead at the 7:31 mark of the fourth quarter on a 3-yard run by Simmons who finished with 121 yards on 21 carries.

Not to be denied, Groves then rebounded to take and preserve the lead in a nail-biting final five minutes which Groves fans won’t soon forget.

Kewley completed 6-12 passes for 75 yards and also carried the ball seven times for 24 yards. Allen was Groves’ leading rusher with 10 carries for 48 yards. Moore finished with 92 total yards on three kick-off returns.

Defensively, Ryan Flaherty led the way with a team-high 12 tackles. Ian Rice finished with nine tackles, including two for loss.

Groves (Division 2) and Pioneer (Division 1), which finished 6-3 overall, will both be in the state playoffs starting next week.


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