PETOSKEY -- There were alot of ‘ifs’ coming into theseason for the Petoskey HighSchool football team.The only if now is whetherthe Northmen can match theperformance they producedFriday against Hastings. If they can, they will certainly be a team that can contendfor the Big North Conferencechampionship and makeplans for a trip to the play-offs.The Northmen were domi-nant from start to finish inposting a 41-14 victory overthe Saxons, improving to 2-0 with their league opener upnext at Cadillac on Friday,Sept. 13.Cadillac is 2-0 after a 43-25 win over Lansing Easternin its season-opener and adramatic 21-20 win over Bay City John Glenn last week.The Vikings rallied from a17-0 deficit to beat theBobcats.Petoskey opened the sea-son with an efficient – albeitfar-from-perfect -- 23-7 winover Sault Ste. Marie.“It’s a confidence builder,”Petoskey coach Kerry VanOrman said. “The firsttwo games of the year canreally make your season orbreak it. The confidencething is big in winning thosefirst couple of games.“I think they sure grew upfrom the (first) week. Taking nothing away from the SaultSte. Marie because they’re agood football team, but Ithink we played way betteron both sides of the ball(against Hastings).”The Northmen put togeth-er a vintage performanceagainst the Saxons (0-2),using their trademark ball-control double-wing offenseto the tune of 348 total yards– 311 of which came on theground – and rolling up 18first downs. And their defense wasequally as impressive in allbut silencing a potentHastings ground game thatproduced more than 400 yards in the Saxons’ 38-34season-opening loss to WestBranch Ogemaw Heights.Petoskey held Hastings to139 yards in total offense, allof which came on theground, and six first downs.More than 50 yards andthree of those first downscame during a fourth-quar-ter drive long after the out-come had been decided.Just one Hastings play went for more than nine yards, and that was a 23-yardscamper by fullback StephenShaffer.“I thought our defense didan outstanding job of shut-ting down their run game,” VanOrman said. “Besides theone breakaway run theirfullback had, our kids did just an outstanding job of defending them.“Coach (Gavin) Fralick and all of our assistants,Mike Loper and Shawn Wonnacott and Mark Ameeland Jamie Buchanan, they deserve a lot of credit forreally putting together agood defensive package.“That’s where it started,and then our kids being ableto run the football like we wanted to was nice. It’s agrowing process for ourteam, especially up front. Ithink they grew up a lot onFriday. I was happy withtheir play for sure.”Chase Ledingham ledPetoskey’s ground game with164 yards and four touch-downs on 24 carries, whileKurt Boucher added 70 yardson 18 attempts. Ledinghamscored on two 7-yard runsand a pair of 3-yard bursts.Sophomore quarterback Evan Whitmore hit on two of his three pass attempts for37 yards and a touchdown, a25-yarder to his brother,Shea, that accounted for thegame’s first points.The Northmen scored onfour of their five first-half possessions for a 27-7 half-time lead.Not to be outdone,Petoskey’s special teamstook a turn in the spotlightas well as its kickoff coverageteam twice covered shortsquib kickoffs, one by StevenSnider, the other by JoeCrittenden. Both of thoseplays came in the first half,giving the Northmen posses-sion in Hastings territory,and both times Petoskey cashed in by scoring onthose drives.The Northmen opened thethird quarter with a 16-play,62-yard scoring drive, andfollowed with 12-play, 71- yard march that resulted in aNick Mesnard 3-yard TDrun. Nathaniel Reed’s extrapoint kick, his fifth of thenight, made it 41-6 with justover eight minutes to play.The two second-half TDdrives totaled 30 plays anddrained more than 15 min-utes of game time – which isexactly what Petoskey’soffense is designed to do –and sandwiched a three-play Hastings drive that ended with a Nick Strobel intercep-tion on the Saxons’ lone passattempt on the night.In Cadillac, the Northmenare bound to see a muchmore balanced attack led by perhaps the Big NorthConference’s best athlete,quarterback Jalen Brooks, athree-year starter.“You’re going to have areally good athlete back there who can run,” VanOrman said. “He’s going to get his yards, but ourbiggest thing is making sure you limit his big plays. We’vegot to be able to defendhim.” A year ago, Brooks torchedthe Northmen for 292 rush-ing yards and six touch-downs in a 44-14 win overthe Northmen. He ranbehind a massive offensiveline led by two of the North’sbest lineman, Jack Ford andRiley Norman. Both havegraduated, but the Vikingsstill pose plenty of problemsup front.“They’re big again upfront, they’re really big,” VanOrman said. “It’s going tobe a challenge for sure.” At 2-0, the Northmen areriding a nice wave of momentum and confidenceheading into Cadillac, a con-test that begins a ruggedthree-game stretch – all onthe road – for the Northmen.Next week, they go toTraverse City West for a Big North game, then it’s a visitto longtime rival Cheboyganfor a non-leaguer.“Three real physical gamesand then we come home to(T.C.) Central,” VanOrmansaid. “We can’t look at thosegames down the road. We’ve just got to stay focused onone game at a time. When you start looking down theroad, you’re in trouble.”
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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2013