Grand Valley State advanced to the next round of the Division II playoffs today by beating South Dakota 35-17. The Lakers controlled the ground as well as the air today as they dominated. They also dominated on defense until the fourth quarter when the game was already in hand. Astin Martin and Cullen Finnerty had a great day running between them. Martin ran for 96 yards the conventional way, and Finnerty made some great gains running himself. His biggest contribution though was using his legs to buy time. He was very impressive when he was facing heavy pressure. Just when you thought he was going down, he would either get away or get the pass off. He did not look like a Division II quarterback today. We got to the game late, but walked in just in time to see Mark Catlin run a punt back 45 yards for a score for Grand Valley. That made the score 14-3, and they never looked back. The Lakers will host North Dakota next week in Lubbers Stadium in the Northwest Regional title game.
This season for the Slicers did not start out with the hype that you would expect for a team that ended up one win away from an appearance in the dome. We had lost the majority of the starters on an offense that had set many Slicer records the year before. Our quarterback was unproven at the varsity level, and was even pulled from some JV games the year before. There were a lot of questions coming into the season. This team quickly answered them though. Here is a month by month look at how the Slicers historical season progressed.
Aug. 12th – The scrimmage versus Logansport was the first chance that we had to see the Slicers on the field. As we watched this team I remember having to check my program to see who these guys were. Only a few big names were left from the record setting team from the year before. We all wanted to see Airrence Shark, because with the lack of starters coming back on offense we knew he would have to carry the load. The format seemed to work pretty good for the scrimmage, and the Slicers got in some reps in a game situation.
Aug. 19th – I did not attend the game against New Prairie, but from everything that I have seen the Slicers just got ran over in the first half. They trailed the Cougars 39-0 at the half. The team did not quit though, and came back in the second half. They scored 33 points to get it close, but in the end they still lost 39-33. This game clued us in to the heart of this team.
Aug. 25th – The Slicers bounced back from the loss against New Prairie to put a hurting on Elkhart Central 42-13.
Sept. 1st – The Slicers trailed by 14 twice in this game. Just before the half they gave up 14 points in under a minute. This would have been a crushing blow to most teams, but the Slicers battled back to force overtime. In that overtime the Slicers and Vikings battled to a draw in the first overtime. In the second overtime the Vikings scored a touchdown and got the extra point to make the score 56-49. The Slicers then scored on a Creed to Mizia pass to make the score 56-55. In a defining moment of the season the Slicers went for two and won the game on a Creed to Mizia pass. The 57-56 win started the Slicers down the right path.
Sept. 8th – The Slicers faced the Trojans of Chesterton at home in week 4. Once again the Slicers were down 14, but stormed back to win 34-21. Even people who had not seen them play very much started figuring out that these kids could never be counted out of a game.
Sept 15th and Sept. 22nd – I did not attend either of these games due to prior commitments, but the Slicers won against DAC opponents in consecutive weeks. The first week they went to Lake Central and came away with a 35-28 win. They were down 14 points (sound familiar?) at halftime, but won the game on a 14 yard run by Creed with 28 seconds left in the game. The very next week they beat Merrillville at home 41-14. They were now 4-1 overall, and eyeing a showdown with Crown Point.
Sept. 29th – That showdown would be one of the biggest games in the state as the #9 Slicers tried to take down the #3 Bulldogs. Kiwanis Field was packed with people who wanted to be a part of the big game despite the downpour that kept going the entire game. I got to the game 20 minutes early, and had to stand on the five yard line near the scoreboard. I stood next to some fans from Ann Arbor, Michigan who had heard about the game and wanted to see some of the players. Fans were lined up around the track just to get a view of the game. If you were there that night you got your money’s worth. Both teams kept going at each other the entire game. Neither team could stop the other one as the one punt total between the two teams showed. Crown Point scored on a 4th and 23 play to take the lead 42-35. The Slicers then went down the field and scored to bring the game within one point 42-41. With less than a minute left the Slicers opted to go for two and the win. The attempt failed, and some of the fans started to leave the stadium. They had obviously not seen this team play yet. The Slicers recovered the onside kick to keep hope alive. They ended up running out of downs, but they fought a great fight that night. I still think that the call to go for two was the right one in that situation. We needed to get rid of these guys as fast as we could.
Oct. 6th – The Slicers traveled to Michigan City to face a Wolves team that was at the bottom of the DAC. They stuck around for a while, but LaPorte eventually overpowered them 39-13. Shark took control of the game, rushing for 215 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also eclipsed the rushing record for a season that was set by Bob Strieter Sr. back in 1959.
Oct. 13th – Portage put the Slicers in their place when we went to their stadium to close the regular season. We could have clinched a share of the Duneland Conference with a win and an unlikely Crown Point loss to Michigan City. We were quickly down 21-0 to Portage before we could catch our breath. It was during this game that we tried some new linebackers to improve our defensive speed, and we stopped Portage the rest of the game. We lost 24-7, but we gained some new players.
Oct. 20th – Mishawaka was our first Sectional opponent at home. They have knocked us out of the tournament four times since the tournament started in 1985. We did not let it happen again as we came out and beat them 51-21. Sometimes they say the game was not as bad as the score shows. This one was worse. We came out fired up after the loss the week before, and dominated from the opening kick. We had a 35-0 lead at the half, and did not give up a first down on defense the entire first half.
Oct. 27th – In the second sectional game we had a rematch at home against Elkhart Central. On a wet night we ran the ball and controlled the clock to pull out a 28-14 win. This set up a sectional rematch against Penn on their home field.
Nov. 3rd – David vs. Goliath on Goliath’s home turf no less. Penn came into the game ranked #5 in the state, and It is Penn Football and it’s storied history versus an upstart LaPorte team that has never really accomplished very much. LaPorte won 27-7 to end Penn’s streak of 11 straight sectional titles. This was LaPorte’s first win against Penn since 1961. It also gave us our first ever sectional title. Airrence Shark ran for 3 touchdowns to lead LaPorte into the history books. After David slew the giant, he was done. We had another giant waiting for us at Kiwanis Field in 12-0 Crown Point.
Nov. 10th – Another matchup against a giant. Crown Point came into the game ranked #4 in the state, and on the fast track to the dome. They had already beaten us once during the season. Could we hang with them again? Yes we could. We had a 14-0 lead before a lightening storm shut the game down for over an hour. It was this delay that allowed me to attend the game, but also gave the Bulldogs new life. They came out of the break and scored 21 straight points on us. We were down 21-14 and it looked like our season might be over. The momentum had completely shifted. It was then that we completed our only pass of the game. It just so happened to be a 72 yard touchdown pass from Creed to Phelps. Crown Point missed a chip shot field goal that would have won the game as regulation expired to keep the Slicers season going. In the overtime the Slicers had the first shot, and scored on fourth down as Airrence Shark put six on the board for LaPorte. The extra point was good, and we led 28-21. The Bulldogs could not do anything on their first three downs. This set included a drop in the end zone by Indiana bound Matt Ernest. Darren Kincaid sealed the game by sacking the quarterback on fourth down to start the celebration for the Slicers. This was the Slicers tenth win of the season marking the first time in the 105 year history of the program that we had accomplished that feat. The fans in the stands quickly became the fans on the field to congratulate the team. We were now regional champions, and one of four teams left in the state in 5A. Our next challenge would be #3 Carmel on their turf.
Nov. 17th – For the third time in three weeks the Slicers had a giant to slay. This one proved to be too much though, and the Slicers went down 34-0. The Slicers were down by 14 at the half, and we all wondered if we had one last comeback in us. We did not though. The story of this game had to be the fans. With the start time being at 7:00 and a 2 1/2 hour drive from home, we packed the visitor side at Carmel. We had people standing everywhere. They wanted the boys to know that we were behind them. Even though the score was getting out of hand, the Slicer faithful stayed until the last player had walked off of the field to salute the team. These kids had a great season, and the crowd respected that.
This team accomplished many things that had never been done before in Slicer history. We set offensive records. We won our first ever sectional, and followed that up the next week with our first ever regional. This team may not have had the most talent in the state. We did have the most heart though. They battled back countless times during the season. They put a city on its back and carried them to within a game of the Dome. At the beginning of the year I sat at the scrimmage wondering who these guys were. Well in the course of 15 weeks I was able to find out. These kids are record holders, sectional champs, regional champs, and overall history makers! The seniors that are leaving were part of the program back in 2003 when we won a share of our second DAC championship. They finished off their careers by winning our first sectional and regional. I was looking at the last six years in the Duneland Conference, and we have the best winning percentage (.682) out of all of the teams in that time. The only team with more wins than us in that time period are the Pirates of Merrillville. They have three more wins, but have played six more games than we have. We are a program that is definitely on the rise, and I am already looking forward to my first look at the team next year. It will be a familiar situation. We will have a new group of kids for the most part. They will be replacing a record setting offense, and have a lot to live up to.
Later in the week I will have a post on the records that were set this season.
Notre Dame easily took care of The Citadel tonight at the Joyce Center. Five Notre Dame players scored in double figures. The were led by true freshman Luke Harangody who scored 18. Luke is a big kid that was both hitting jump shots as well as being a presence inside. The Irish looked good tonight. It was my first chance to see the team in person. Time will tell if they have what it takes to compete in the Big East. This game was the second part of a doubleheader between the men and women at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame had a much easier time this week with their MAC opponent than last week. Last Monday the Irish needed overtime to beat Bowling Green. The Irish took control of this game very early. This is a young team that loves to ball hawk, and creates turnovers. The only bad thing is that they tend to turn the ball over as well. True freshman Ashley Barlow led the Irish with 17 points. She was one of five Notre Dame scorers to reach double digits.
Purdue finished off the 2006 Big Ten season today with a 28-19 win over the Indiana Hoosiers today in Ross-Ade Stadium. This was a wild game that was still in doubt until the final two minutes. Both teams had trouble stopping each other. The only reason the score was as low as it was was that the teams easily stopped themselves. At one point in the game there were five turnovers in a seven play span. Purdue got the ball on a Hoosier turnover only to have Jaycen Taylor fumble at the end of a 31 yard run. Tracey Porter picked up the fumble and ran 57 yards before Jake Standeford knocked the ball out of his hands from behind and out of the back of the endzone for a touchback. That’s right. Two turnovers on one play. You won’t see high quality play like that at the Ohio State – Michigan game. Standeford’s forced fumble was a great hustle play that reminded me of Don Beebe running down Leon Lett in the Super Bowl. His hustle saved a Hoosier touchdown. Purdue won the turnover contest 5 to 4, and still somehow won the game. Of the five Purdue turnovers, Painter was responsible for four of them all interceptions. In the end though, we retain the bucket, and take our 8-4 record to Hawaii. Indiana goes home. All is well in West Lafayette.
Tonight the unbelievable season for the Slicers came to an end at the hands of the Carmel Greyhounds. We lost the game 34-0, but these kids now have something that nobody else in Slicer history can claim. They were part of the program in 2003 when we won a share of the DAC for only the second time, and they are also the only team to win sectionals in Slicer history. Not only did they win sectionals, they went on to win a rematch against Crown Point to win the regional. This class has had a great run, and it will be sad to see them go. For the second season in a row we have seen Slicer records that had stood the test of time go down. I think the biggest testament to what this team meant to the community was the fact that even though everyone was so far away from home, and the game was out of hand they stayed around. They did not just wait until the final whistle was blown. Most of the crowd waited until the final player had left the field. It is nights like tonight, and for the last few weeks that I am proud to be a Slicer. Way to go boys!!