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Saturday December 5, 2020
DELTA COUNTY RIVALRY: Eskymos Rally, 20-12

Click the thumbnails in the ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS box above to see photos and videos, and hear interviews with Gladstone Coach Jeff Hansen and Escanaba Coach Dave Howes. Also, click to hear player spotlight interviews with Gladstone's Owen Trombley and Cam Kelly.

GLADSTONE---
The Gladstone Braves scored the first two touchdowns of the game Friday night, but the Escanaba Eskymo defense pitched a shutout the rest of the way and Escanaba posted a 20-12 win at the Marble Athletic Field.

It was a sloppy but entertaining game as the Braves celebrated Homecoming without many of the usual side events due to the pandemic.

A much smaller crowd than usual was admitted, there was no concession stand, but the Braves band and both schools' cheerleaders were also in attendance.

The Braves dominated the first quarter, especially in the trenches. Gladstone opened the game on a 65-yard, 10-play drive, all on the ground. Senior Blake Servant scored from one yard out, but the Braves missed the two-point conversion, so it stayed 6-0.

The Eskymos fumbled away their next possession, and quarterback Cam Kelly hooked up with receiver Cam Ballard for 26 yards deep into Escanaba territory. But Gladstone, on 2nd-and-10 from the 15 yard-line, were unfortunate when Kelly scrambled 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage and raced to the sidelines, heaving an incomplete pass up field.

Kelly was called for intentional grounding, angering the Gladstone sideline.

Two incomplete passes later, the Braves turned the ball over on downs.

Escanaba could get nothing going either, and after a three-and-out, Bryant Maki's punt was blocked by Cole Potier. Gladstone took over at the 23 yard-line, and five plays later, Ryan Polley powered into the end zone from four yards out. Gladstone again missed the two-point run, but five seconds into the second quarter, the Braves had a 12-0 lead.

Escanaba again went three-and-out, and the Braves took over at their own 18 yard-line after a punt. Gladstone moved it out to the 40 yard-line, but Kelly was sacked twice and his 3rd-and-17 pass up field was intercepted on a deflection by Collin Arnt.

The Eskymos then went on a 19-play drive that took 9:36 off of the clock. They played over their own mistakes, and got a couple of clurch catches from Anthony Seymour.

The first one came on 3rd and 8 at the 27 yard line when Seymour dove to catch one in the mud at the Braves 11 yard-line. The Eskymos, however, committed back-to-back penalties, costing them 28 yards. Quarterback Brandon Fazer was able to find Ryan Randall for a 13-yard pass, then after two incompletions, Escanaba faced 4th and 18.

Enter: Seymour. Frazer lofted a high pass to the goal line in the middle of the field. Seymour leaped into the air and hauled it down between two defenders for a clutch first down. He was ruled short of the goal line, but Arnt pounded it in from one yard out to put Escanaba on the board, The two-point pass to Maki brought Escanaba to within 12-8 at halftime.

Escanaba struck quickly to start the second half as Frazer found the speedy Tyler Lawson free along the hashmarks. Lawson took it to the house from 53 yards out, and even though the two-point conversion failed, Escanaba still had its first lead at 14-12.

Gladstone went three-and-out again, and the Eskymos went to work on another touchdown drive. First, Frazer hooked up with Curtis Kutchenberg for a 21-yard strike. Frazer converted a 3rd-and-9 pass to Maki, and then the Eskymos took advantage of two straight off-sides penalties on the Braves defense. There were six of those in the contest.

Frazer tossed one into the back of the end zone to Lawson, and it landed in his hands beyond two leaping Gladstone defenders. That made it 20-12, but the extra point kick was blocked, keeping the Braves in the game. And they had their opportunities.

Gladstone moved the ball to the Escanaba 35 yard-line, but on 3rd-and-2, Kelly was sacked by Ryan Randall for a seven-yard loss. Momentum seemed to go back in Gladstone's favor when Polley hustled and downed a Kelly punt at the two-yard line,

And disaster nearly struck for Escanaba when Frazer had the snap go off his hands in the end zone. He was able to go get the ball, and heaved it out of bounds into the Braves bench. Intentional grounding was called, which in the end zone would be two points and a safety for Gladstone. But the Braves were called for roughing the passer (again) and the penalties off-set.

Escanaba was able to convert another third down play to get out of trouble, but ended up punting moments later, giving Gladstone another chance from the 50 yard-line.

The Braves went three-and-out, however, and the Eskymos got into penalty problems again with an illegal chop block costing them 16 yards. On 1st-and-26, Frazer found...guess who, Seymour, open for a 31-yard gain and another Escanaba first down.

The Gladstone defense stiffened, with Mason Kinonen sacking Frazer, forcing a 4th-and-23.

On the punt, the snap was on the ground, but Frazer was able to save the day by getting the ball, and dumping it to Kutchenberg for a 22-yard gain. It was just shy of a first down, but field position remained in Escanaba's favor.

The Braves converted a 3rd-and-15 play with the same bit of trickery that nearly brought them back in the final minute against Kingsford two weeks ago. Kelly tossed to Ballard, who threw the half-back option pass to John Hansen for a 31-yard gain to the Escanaba 24.

A roughing the passer penalty against Escanaba gave the Braves a first-and-goal. But they couldn't cash in, again, as Kelly slipped in the mud and fell down for an 11-yard loss. On third down, Kelly went for Caden Downey in the corner of the end zone, but Escanaba's Trever Englund jumped in front of Downey and intercepted the pass.

Escanaba got one first down on offense, and then drained the final seconds off of the clock.

The teams combined to commit 22 penalties in the game.

Frazer completed 16-of-22 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. Kutchenberg caught four of the passes, while Randall, Lawson, Seymour, and Maki all caught three. Arnt led the Eskymos on the ground with 26 yards on eight carries.

Randall had 20 yards on six touches.

For Gladstone, it was a rough night on offense, with only 148 total yards. Polley ran hard for 75 yards on 15 carries. But the passing game was ineffecfive, with Kelly completing just 5-of-13 passes for 47 yards.

Gladstone kicker Lucas Hughes was named the Homecoming King, and Braves three-sport athlete Megan Crow was elected Homecoming Queen.

Escanaba was playing just its second game of the season due to COVID-19 shutdowns, and finished 1-1. But despite not playing the minimum four games, the Michigan High School Athletic Association approved a waiver to allow the Eskymos to go to the playoffs.

The Eskymos will likely be on the road, with possible opponents being Sault Ste. Marie and Ludington. Gladstone finished 2-3, with four of its five games decided by one touchdown or less. The Braves will play at home in a Dvision Six playoff game next Friday.

The MHSAA will post the playoff pairings on Sunday.









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