Manistee caps historic 9-0 season with hard fought win

Chippewas quarterback Trevor Johns (11) turns the ball upfield in Manistee’s 28-14 win over NorthPointe Christian Friday as Jack Sandstedt (22) looks to make a block. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

Chippewas quarterback Trevor Johns (11) turns the ball upfield in Manistee’s 28-14 win over NorthPointe Christian Friday as Jack Sandstedt (22) looks to make a block. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Nothing is perfect… Until it is.

On Friday night, Manistee proved perfection is attainable with a hard fought 28-14 victory over NorthPointe Christian, capping an historic regular season run with an unblemished 9-0 record — the best in program history.

“That particular combination of numbers is going to stick with these kids forever,” said Chippewas coach Troy Bytwork. “9-0: that’s always the goal. Whether every team that I’ve coached or helped coach has believed it, that’s hard to say. But these kids did.

“They were able to achieve something that most high schools teams won’t,” he added. “Five hundred and some odd teams start off hoping to do it, but not many do. This means a lot to the kids and it means a lot to me.”

Heading into Friday night’s regular season finale, the Lakes-8 Conference champion Chippewas had already tied their program’s record for wins in a single season with eight. They’re also the program record holders for most points in a single season.

On Friday, Manistee came out fired up, despite the rainy and cold conditions overhead Chippewa Field. Senior quarterback Trevor Johns put points on the board right away with just two plays from scrimmage: the first a nearly 50-yard run to goal line, and the second a punch-in for his first of three rushing touchdowns on the night.

Johns finished with 87 yards and the three scores on 15 carries.

Manistee’s defense also made a statement in its first series by making a goal line stand, turning the run-heavy Mustangs over on downs after they methodically ate up yardage in their first possession.

Connor Barke led the Chippewa defense on the night with 16 tackles while Logan Buren recorded 14 and Trac Allen nine.

Manistee struggled a bit on offense in the second quarter, and NorthPointe was able to even the score at 7 with a rushing touchdown before halftime.

“I watched our offensive line simply dominate that first half, from tight end to tackle,” Bytwork said. “Across the board, they were just doing a tremendous job, so I said to the backs (at halftime) that we’ve got to catch up a little bit.

“From an offensive standpoint, we had to pull our weight just a little bit more.”

The Chippewas looked poised to score again early in the third with a nine-play drive to the Mustangs’ 6-yard line, but it ended with a lost fumble. NorthPointe capitalized just three plays later with one of game’s few successful passing plays as quarterback Drew Turn connected with Jake Shepherd for a long score, making it 14-7 in favor of the Mustangs.

Manistee kept composure, however, and continued to move the chains on offense. Johns found pay dirt again with a 5-yard rushing score in the final minute of the third to knot the score at 14.

“I thought we came out moving the ball better,” Bytwork said. “We put together some long drives and just moved the ball the better, like we have in the second half all year.”

The teams traded scoreless possessions to start the fourth before the Chippewas jumped ahead for good with another red zone rushing score by Johns with 3:05 remaining, making it 21-14.

“These kids have always been a composed group,” Bytwork said. “They’re always loose, always talking. The conversations I have with these guys at halftime and during timeouts is always productive. They’re always ready to fight no matter the situation. … They just love playing football.”

Manistee’s Jack Sandstedt put an exclamation point on the victory with a rushing touchdown at 1:02 in the fourth. Sandstedt finished with 119 yards on 10 carries.

Bryson Jensen also contributed to Manistee’s offensive attack with 106 rushing yards on 10 carries. The Chippewas finished with 384 yards on the ground.

The Chippewas’ playoff picture will be clear when matchups and schedules are announced on Sunday night. Until then, they can enjoy their achievements thus far.

“Going 9-0 is one heck of a cool accomplishment, and I’ll never forget this team for that,” Bytwork said. “But I don’t think their journey is done.

“These kids want to play football together for as long as we’re able to play football together. We want to take this as far as we can take it.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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