All hands on deck.
That’s the mantra for Algonac football, and they showed right off the bat it’s not just a slogan as the entire defense gave Marine City a headache in the 7-2 opening night win.
“We saw all hands on deck tonight,” Algonac head coach Scott Barnhart said. “That’s why I’m so proud of our kids right now, they showed a lot of character.”
The first half was a tennis match in slow motion with the ball changing hands by the series, including an interception by Algonac senior Stephen Goodall in the first quarter.
The second half is when all whopping nine points of the game were scored but, of course, it didn’t come easy.
The Muskrats set themselves up with a 35 yard catch by senior Ian Uleski on a bullet by senior Brendan Piper, setting themselves up at the five yard line. As they did often all night, the Mariners defense stuffed the run to force a 4th and goal at the 10 yard line.
That’s when junior Nick Folkerts leaped to grab the game’s only touchdown out of the air, giving the Muskrats a 7-0 lead in the third quarter.
The drive was highlighted with on-point throws by Piper, and just in the second half he showed improvement from how he started the game in the opening quarters.
“I saw him understand he’s the guy out there taking snaps,” Barnhart said. “He’s been in competition for a few years and hasn’t seen a lot of time, but now it’s his job and he’s going to be our guy. We’ll see bigger and better things from him every week.”
Marine City had its first big opportunity in the second half come on the following drive, taking the ball down to the three yard line after a screen to junior William Patsalis. However, once again, the Mariners defense clogged every running lane and came up with a pass breakup by Folkerts on fourth down.
The Muskrats celebration was short lived as they botched the snap and watched the ball roll out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Marine City had big opportunity No. 2 come on its final drive of the game, taking the ball all the way down to Algonac’s 11 yard line after 66 yards and a fourth down conversion. The Muskrats kept on jamming the run, and the final pass on fourth down was picked off by Algonac junior Steven Rose to ice the game.
“Everybody on our team was dead, and everybody on their team was dead,” Rose said. “It was just nonstop plays, and they’re trying to go with no timeouts. And it was all about who works harder and who had more heart.”
Thursday night fever
You can’t contain the excitement of the opening night of high school football.
Seriously – why else would people arrive to the Algonac at Marine City showdown two hours before kickoff?
Players’ parents, a few students and others that love them some Mariner and Muskrat football lined up outside the gates before they were open. And, of course, assuring a seat at the 50 yard line doesn’t hurt the early arrival either.
“We got a lot of boys from last year that were just starting to get into their prime,” said Marine City fan Bill Milner, who grabbed a front row bleacher seat. “Hopefully we’re going to have a strong team – we got a lot of big boys.”
Both sides are hopeful for a memorable season – and for good reason. Marine City’s pedigree is well-known enough for everybody to know they’re a power, and Algonac’s 2015 season story has been told enough to have everyone know they’re on the rise.
While the thrill of the season had both fan bases excited with the rest of the state of Michigan, it also marks the beginning of the end for the seniors strapping up for their final season of football. Senior Algonac running back Joe McKee’s dad, Jeff, was the first Muskrat fan through the gate to see the first moments of his son’s final season.
“It’s bittersweet … it’s the last time I’ll see him play high school football,” Jeff McKee said. “But it’s kind of exciting, because I think he’s going to have a great year.”