GRAND LEDGE – With a 4-4 record and a date with the CAAC Blue champions in a regular season finale, Holt needed its best performance of the year on Friday night to have a chance at keeping its season going.
The Rams came through with that performance and will have to wait to see if their late-season surge will roll on.
Holt upended Grand Ledge 30-20 to close the season with three consecutive wins. A 5-4 record may give them a chance to qualify for the MHSAA state playoffs via points with six wins being the number needed to secure a spot automatically.
Holt 30, Grand Ledge 20
Playoff matchups for the eight 32-team tournaments will be announced Sunday afternoon.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Holt coach Chad Fulk said. “It’s a rivalry game. Both teams are going to come out and fight and give everything they have, especially if you don’t know if it’s going to be the last time you put on the pads. …
They’ve crushed us the last two years, but it’s amazing. I couldn’t be more proud of this senior class.”
Holt (5-4, 5-2), which also finished in a three-way tie with East Lansing and Sexton for second in the Blue, played like the more desperate team early as the Comets (7-2, 6-1) were coming off a league-clinching victory over the Trojans last week.
The Rams scored on their third play from scrimmage on a 72-yard pass from Kolin Leyrer to Draylon Young. A 32-yard TD run from Troy Jordan on a fourth down and short put Holt up 14-0 later in the first quarter.
The lead swelled to 17 when Holt, off a fumble recovery on a dropped punt return, got a 27-yard field goal from Milo Verlinde.
Grand Ledge stabilized with a 47-yard TD pass from Nolan Bird to Dominic Guzman to go into halftime trailing by just 10, but it was a large portion of the little offense the Comets generated in the first 24 minutes.
The unit was held to 103 yards in the first half and didn’t have a first down in the first quarter.
“That was our motto this year – if you’re not beating us in the trenches then you’re not beating us,” Leyrer said.
“They’re big. We had seen that on film. Their linebackers come downhill and fill really well. I thought we’d get a better response from our group but give it to Holt, they were the better team,” Grand Ledge coach Matt Bird said. “We weren’t mentally tough, and it disappoints me. … Very uncharacteristic.”
The Comets got the ball to start the second half, but a fumble recovery by Sean Curry gave the momentum right back to Holt. They capitalized with a short TD run by big back Josh Adado to make the score 23-7 Holt.
“Some of the penalties and the fumbles we had were at crucial points. Any time we got any type of momentum to get it going our way, we’d shoot ourselves in the foot,” Bird said.
Leyrer’s second TD pass of the game went to Khari Gray for 14 yards and put the Rams up 30-7 in the fourth, and that big lead was required with the finish the Comets put together.
Grand Ledge scored twice over a five-minute stretch, with a 2-yard run by Cal Riggs and another 2-yarder by Nolan Bird following a blocked punt.
That left the Comets down by only 10 at 30-20 with just under six minutes left, but Holt’s power rushing attack did enough to work down the clock, aided by an offside penalty as the Rams were set to punt the ball back to Grand Ledge with just under three minutes remaining in the game.
“We came together. The juniors, the seniors, the one sophomore that’s on the team, we knew we had to win out,” Leyrer said of the team’s mindset before playing Okemos two weeks ago with a 2-4 record. “This just gives us another chance.”