It was hard for John Meyer to crack a smile.
The irritation level was high for the Ionia senior quarterback as he stood on the field at halftime for the king and queen crowning as part of homecoming festivities Friday. That was the last place he wanted to be at that time.
Facing a 32-0 deficit in what was his final home game didn’t sit well with Meyer or his teammates. And he wanted to figure out how to get things going.
“I knew that we needed to change something or turn it around because I wasn’t going to finish my games at home like that and without even throwing a touchdown pass,” said Meyer, who helped Ionia overcome a 30-point deficit in a win over Lakewood as a junior. “That definitely was not the ideal way for our last home game for the seniors to go and something had to change pretty quick.”
Things ended up changing – and drastically.
Ionia put together a second half rally for the ages while posting a 41-40 victory over McBain. The Bulldogs’ comeback from a 32-point deficit was the largest in state history according to the MHSAA’s online records. The previous biggest come-from-behind win came in 2002 when West Bloomfield rallied from 31 down to beat Birmingham Groves.
How did Ionia’s state-record comeback happen?
“I guess it was more actions than words,” said Meyer who completed 29-of-65 passes for 406 yards and five touchdowns. “Everybody really pitched in. There were a select few of us during the game that were trying to keep everyone’s heads up, but it just seemed like when we were on offense and defense, everybody was making plays.
“It was definitely a team effort that got everything going and sustained it.”
Ionia coach Mike Holes said his squad’s early issues largely came because of its struggles to handle McBain’s size in the trenches. His team was being driven off the ball in the first half. And on offense they weren’t connecting.
Holes and his staff made a few minor adjustments at the intermission. They changed the alignment and technique of one of their defensive ends and then challenged their defensive tackles to eliminate the success of an inside trap play. They also found some passing plays that would work based on the way McBain’s corners were playing.
And those changes plus some personal pride set things in motion for a wild second half comeback that was capped by a late touchdown pass from Meyer to Jake Veale. And then Veale helped seal the win with an interception.
“The two things this year that we talked about this year that we can control was our attitude and our effort,” Holes said. “And that’s what we said (at halftime). We said are you going to respond to what we’re saying at halftime or not? Obviously they did. That was kind of important for our senior leaders to do that, because man I’m telling you there were a couple times in that second quarter where we had some guys that were giving a look on their face like we’re done. We regrouped at halftime and challenged them to respond or not. And they chose that they wanted to.”