By Mike DunnROSCOMMON — Grayling traveled to the field of Roscommon to open the2012 season on Thursday of last week. The young Vikingsof coach Tim Sanchez passeda tough early test, beating thetalented Bucks 28-20 to startthings off on a positive note.Sanchez figured his young troops would make some of the first-game mistakes that young teams typically makeand he was right. He waspleased for the most part,though.“We’re young and we madea lot of young mistakes and Imade some coaching mis-takes,” he said after thegame. “I was very pleased with our effort, though. Jake(Swander) did a really good job for his first varsity startand the offensive line playedbetter than I expected. Being so young up front, I was con-cerned about us running theball but we were able to. Ty (Jensen) had a great night forus.”Swander, a left-handed junior with a bazooka for anarm, is the latest gunslingerto lead the Vikings’ vaunted,high-powered aerial assault.Swander showed surprising savvy for his first start andremarkable calm under pres-sure. He hit on 27-of-45 aeri-als for 277 yards and three TDstrikes.“Jake was incredible,”Sanchez said. “He’s one of themost complete quarterbacks we’ve had and he devoted alot of time in the off-seasonto get ready for this. I’m real-ly looking forward to having him for two years.”The one play that leftSanchez and others on theGrayling sidelines shaking their heads came in thefourth quarter. The Vikingsled 21-12 at that point andhad the ball in Buck territory.Swander accepted the shot-gun snap from “Concrete”Charlie Brown and thenlooked in the direction of sophomore receiver ScoutTobin. When Scout was cov-ered, Swander didn’t panic.Instead, he turned andlooked to the other side of the field and, just beforebeing hit by a Buck defender,released a pretty pass in thedirection of junior TylerMcClanahan.The result was a 29-yardTD strike and, following Kevin Harris’s fourth perfectboot of the game, a 28-12lead with 4:40 remaining.“That touchdown passshowed me a lot,” Sanchezsaid. “Jake isn’t supposed tobe able to make a play likethat in his first varsity start.”Swander, displaying thecool demeanor of a sheriff ina TV western, showedremarkable poise in thepocket.“I was supposed to throw to Scout and then I saw Tylerbreaking open,” he told oneof his coaches after coming off the field.The Vikings had some mis-fires at times and didn’t scoreas many points as they couldhave given how well they moved the ball through mostof the game and how many yards they racked up. They had one touchdown calledback early and hurt them-selves at other times withturnovers and miscues.Given that, it was still agood performance for a basi-cally young team in the firstgame on the road against atalented opponent.Sanchez was particularly pleased with the play of offensive linemen EmmettHelsel, Nick Smock, Lucas Walesky, Tyler Wyman andBrown. The line not only pro-tected Swander in the pocketbut created holes for ruggedsenior Ty Jensen and fluid junior Michael Branch toplow through.The running game turnedout to be a key factor in the win over Roscommon as the Vikings protected their leadin the second half. Jensen, who’s about as tough as raw steak, was the workhorse,amassing 111 yards in 20 car-ries and scoring on a 3-yardplunge up the gut behind thebust-em-out blocks of “Concrete” Charlie andSmock.Branch was a key contribu-tor in the backfield as well,running eight times for 41 yards.Swander had TD connec-tions of 9 and 10 yards withglue-fingered junior JusticeJuntilla in the first half.Justice was served twice,once with a lightning laserinto the numbers fromSwander on a slant-in andthen shortly before halftimeon a pretty fade pass fromSwander that Juntillagrabbed in the end zone.The Vikings led 14-6 at thehalf and increased the lead to21-6 early in the fourth quar-ter when Jensen powered his way across the goal line tocap a long scoring march.Roscommon, fighting tothe end on this hot night, ral-lied to trim the lead to 21-12 with a TD march of its own.Bucks’ QB John Miller foundversatile Austin Fluegel, who was a thorn in the Vikings’side all game long, for a 17- yard strike. With 7:04 left to play, theBucks tried an onside kick but the long arms of “Wild” Wes Dean corralled thebouncing ball and preventedRosco from keeping posses-sion. Swander then engi-neered what would prove tobe the game-winning 54- yard drive, finding the streak-ing McClanahan for the deci-sive 29-yard tally.Rosco came back one moretime, trimming the lead to28-20 with 3:45 left whenMiller hooked up withFluegel for a 24-yard TD andthen hit tight end R.J.Friedrichsen for two points. After that, Swander put theball in Jensen’s gut play afterplay and Jensen, legs pump-ing like pistons, forged for- ward and kept the chainsmoving the clock winding down.McClanahan had a mon-ster night at receiver, pulling in 11 missiles from Swanderfor 144 yards including hisclutch TD catch. Jensengrabbed six tosses for 51 yards and Tobin, one of foursophomores on the varsity this season, pulled down fivefor 37 yards.On the other side of theball, O’Connell’s Carnivoresplayed with hunger and pas-sion all the way through.Linebacker Nick Swierczrecovered a fumble in thefirst quarter and Harris madea leaping interception tothwart a Rosco drive beforehalftime. The versatileMcClanahan also had aninterception.“Wild Wes” flowed to thefootball like a heat-seeking missile from his inside line-backer post, making a game-high 11 tackles. Fellow line-backer Jeff Myers had a big night also, recording eightstops.Curtis Wilson, DavidSomero, Scott Parkinson andJuntilla all had tackles behindthe line of scrimmage. The D-line featuring Myers, Walesky, Somero, Wilson,Juntilla and others was phys-ically punishing against therun.Grayling has its homeopener this week againstperennial non-league foeHoughton Lake (0-1). TheBobcats are coming off a 34-20 defeat at the hands of Frankfort.
Sophomore Scout Tobin (33) scoots through open spacesto pick up positive yardage after a pass reception.
Senior Scott Parkinson (2) holds the B.A.H.U.N.A. banner and leads the Vikings ontothe field at Roscommon.Vikings defenders Nick Swiercz (56) and Justice Junttila (21) surround RoscommonQB John Miller on Thursday.
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