For more than three decades, Mendon owned this rivalry with Climax-Scotts. Year after year, often in the playoffs, Mendon would beat Climax-Scotts with a winning streak that lasted 30 games.
Last year, Climax-Scotts looked to change that with a win in the playoffs.
And now, the winning streak has gone in the other direction.
For the second year in a row, Climax-Scotts has knocked its rival out of the playoffs. No. 2-ranked Climax-Scotts defeated Mendon, 28-14, in this Division 8 district final football game at Climax-Scotts on Friday. Climax-Scotts stays undefeated at 11-0 and will go on the road in the next round to face Ottawa Lake Whiteford (11-0).
“It’s unreal,” said Climax-Scotts senior Adam Schantz, who had four touchdowns in the game. “Climax dreams about just beating Mendon once and for it to happen two years in a row in the playoffs, it’s just incredible.
“I’m not sure exactly what this means, because it’s never been done.To beat Mendon two years in a row, this is everything we ever want to do at Climax. There’s no words for what we did tonight.”
In past seasons, often playing Mendon (8-3) meant the end of the playoff road for Climax-Scotts. Mendon had a 30-game winning streak against Climax-Scotts over a 37-year period. And in the postseason, in the previous 12 years that Climax-Scotts made the playoffs, Mendon had ended the Panthers’ run in six of those years – including four straight heading into last year. All of that came to an end in 2015 when Climax-Scotts edged Mendon, 8-6, in the first round.
And now, Climax-Scotts gets to celebrate a win over its rival once again.
“What a great win,” Climax-Scotts coach Kevin Langs said. “I don’t think it’s ever happened in the history of our school that we have beaten Mendon two years in a row, especially a quality Mendon team two years in a row in the playoffs.”
In a fast-moving, tight first half, both teams only had the ball twice as Mendon went into intermission with a 7-6 lead.
Climax-Scotts opened the contest with an 77-yard drive that lasted more than eight minutes before Schantz scored from eight yards out for the first touchdown, giving the home team a 6-0 lead with 3:42 remaining in the quarter.
Mendon controlled the ball on the next possession as the Hornets held the ball for more than six minutes before Wyatt Cool scored from a yard out with 8:55 left in the half. The difference in the game at that point was an extra point by Mendon to give the visitors a 7-6 lead.
Climax-Scotts missed out on another chance to score late in the second quarter when a Panther fumble was recovered at the 32 in Mendon territory with just 3:46 left in the half.
Mendon took the ball to start the second half and went on another ball-control drive to move the ball deep into Climax-Scotts territory. However, the Panthers stopped the Hornets on a fourth-and-short on a nice tackle by Noah Eshuis to give Climax-Scotts possession on their own 26.
That seemed to change the momentum as Climax-Scotts scored five plays later on another touchdown by Schantz to give the home team a 14-7 lead with 6:04 remaining in the third quarter.
“It was a slugfest kind of game,” Langs said. “That’s the way it’s meant to be when it’s Climax vs. Mendon. Our defense played tough and that was a key play. Noah came off the edge and made a great tackle. That was a huge play and a great play call by our defensive coach Steve Brady.”
On the next Mendon possession, Climax-Scotts came up with another defensive effort as Nathan Vickery grabbed an interception in the end zone on a passed that was tipped by teammate Dylan Butler.
A third Mendon turnover in the fourth quarter ended the hopes of a Hornet comeback as Zach Scholly had a fumble recovery for Climax-Scotts with 8:04 remaining in the game.
At that point, the Panthers went on a game-deciding, nine-play drive that ended in a touchdown run from two yards out by Schantz to make it 20-7 with just 2:59 remaining.
For Schantz, it was another big night for the senior as he added to his record-breaking total with four more touchdowns to give him 33 on the season. Schantz finished with 154 yards rushing to lead the Panthers. Eshuis added 144 yards rushing.
“Our offensive line, they are absolute studs,” Schantz said. “For me to score four touchdowns, that’s not somehing I did, that’s a team thing, that’s something the entire team did.”
Mendon came up with a desperation drive to score late on a touchdown pass from Hunter Lovell to Ruben Vorster with 1:25 left to cut it to 20-14.
However, Climax-Scotts recovered the on-side kick and Schantz scored on the next snap from scrimmage from 49 yards out to make the final score, 28-14.
“They are a great football team, that was a great game. That was the best anyone has held us down all year,” Langs said. “But we got it done in a slugfest. But for awhile there it seemed like it was the game that wouldn’t end. Never really sure we had this won until it was won. Didn’t feel good about it until there was all zeroes up there on the scoreboard.”