McCabe: Run-heavy Pewamo-Westphalia adjusts, reaches state semis

Pewamo-Westphalia's Jared Smith.

Pewamo-Westphalia’s Jared Smith.

From the third game of his sophomore year on, Pewamo-Westphalia could count on at least 100 yards a game by running back Jared Smith.

But that state-record, 36-game streak was snapped Saturday, when the No. 2 Pirates traveled north to take on No. 1 Traverse City St. Francis in a regional championship game.

“If you would have told me going into the game that Jared wouldn’t have 100 yards,” P-W coach Jeremy Miller said, “I probably would not have bet on us.”

Good thing Miller isn’t a betting man.

Pewamo-Westphalia put together a tremendous defensive performance to knock off the Gladiators, 17-14, to move into Saturday’s Division 7 semifinal game against No. 6 Ubly at Mt. Pleasant.

St. Francis led, 14-10, at halftime and the Pirates were reeling. Frankly, they were fortunate to be down only four points.

“In the beginning of the game, they came out and hit us pretty hard, and we hadn’t been hit like that,” Miller said. “I think it took us a little bit to react to it.”

Related: Michigan high school football state semifinal matchups

That is what the P-W coaches addressed at halftime.

“We felt like we were on our heels a little bit in that first half,” Miller said. “We talked to them about going out there and taking it to them instead, and to our credit our kids really rose to the occasion. … It was kind of an attitude adjustment at halftime.”

P-W’s attitude was adjusted, and in the second half the Pirates were able to shut out a team that was averaging over 39 points a game.

The defensive line battled St. Francis up front and enabled the linebackers to get to the ball carrier.

Offensively, P-W needed to score another touchdown, but St. Francis had pretty much bottled up Smith, who finished with 91 yards on 31 carries.

Yet with 4:52 left to play, Smith scored on a bruising 12-yard run, on which he seemed to do more damage to the defensive players he ran through than the other way around.

“Boy, he’d have to have run into five or six guys it seemed like,” Miller said. “He was a man on a mission. It was a heck of a run.”

The 91 yards gained pushed Smith’s career total to more than 8,000 and kept the Pirates alive in the playoffs.

“To his credit, he just kept working,” Miller said. “I’m sure it was frustrating for him not being able to do what he usually does, but when we really needed it he certainly came through for us.”

Related: Five standout performances from football regional finals

Frankenmuth sacks bag Bentley

Frankenmuth earned its first trip to the semifinals since 1997 by denying Ithaca an eighth consecutive semifinal game with a 28-20 Division 5 victory.

The key was Frankenmuth tormenting junior quarterback Joey Bentley, who was sacked eight times.

“We tried to give him different looks in the secondary, changed up our pressures,” said Frankenmuth coach Phil Martin. “The kids did a great job of executing our defensive scheme, kept him moving in the pocket, and we were able to frustrate him a little bit with those looks.”

Bentley ran for touchdowns of 74 and 15 yards as Ithaca took a 14-0 lead as Frankenmuth committed two costly turnovers.

But the Eagles settled down and controlled the clock with a running game that gained 430 yards, enabling Frankenmuth to possess the ball for 31 minutes of the 48-minute game. “We didn’t let them get in rhythm because our offense was on the field for most of the game,” Martin said.

Technical knockout

The craziest regional final was Detroit Cass Tech’s 43-42 victory over Saline. Thanks to the statistics provided by Saline’s Mike Newton, the teams combined for 938 yards in total offense. Cass Tech rushed for 428 yards and an incredible 12.6 yards per carry. That is a statistic that will give the Utica Eisenhower coaching staff nightmares this week before Ike plays the Technicians at 1 p.m. Saturday at Troy Athens.

Super 8

Mick McCabe lists the team most likely to win the state championship in each division:

Division 1

Detroit Cass Tech (12-0):  Survived a 43-42 scoreapalooza at Saline.

Division 2

Walled Lake Western (11-1): Looked tremendous in 61-21 trouncing of Fenton.

Division 3

Muskegon (11-1): Was never better than in its 62-7 thrashing of Byron Center.

Division 4

River Rouge (11-1): Dispatched Adrian and now has showdown with Country Day.

Division 5

Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-2): Forcing seven turnovers in regional final was amazing.

Division 6

Jackson Lumen Christi (10-2): The eight-time state champ has won nine straight games.

Division 7

Detroit Loyola (10-2): The Bull Dogs handled a good Hudson team without much trouble.

Division 8 

Muskegon Catholic (12-0): Faces St. Ignace, which it beat, 21-6, in Week 2.

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