Cardinals rally to defeat Eskymos

ESCANABA — All season long, the Big Rapids Cardinals stuck with their system.

When they started 4-0. When they had to win their last two regular season games just to get in to the postseason.

Even when they trailed big early in their first round playoff game against Escanaba.

Desean Griffin ran for two touchdowns and Braeden Childress threw for another as Big Rapids rallied from a 17-0 second-quarter deficit to defeat the Eskymos 21-17 on Friday night in Escanaba.

“We have shown resiliency all year” said an elated Big Rapids coach Mike Selzer. “Every one of our games has been tight like this and we grew up because of it”.

After stopping the Cardinals on fourth and two during their opening possession, the Eskymos drove 55 yards in seven plays, capped off by a 12-yard run by Esky quarterback Logan Lamb. Escanaba recovered a BR fumble on the ensuing kickoff and running back Breyden Papineau scored on an 11-yard run to give the Eskymos a 14-0 advantage at the end of the  first quarter.

“We haven’t been hit like this all year” said Selzer regarding Escanaba. “That was the cause for our slow start. They came out and took it to us right away.”

Paul Carne added a 27-yard field goal early in the second quarter to extend the Esky lead to 17-0, but that’s when the Cardinal defense went to work, holding the Eskymos scoreless for the rest of the game.

“It took us a while to get our feet,” Selzer said.

Meanwhile, Big Rapids’ offense started to get untracked late in the first half.  Jeff Davenport caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Childress to get the Cardinals on the board, trailing 17-6 with 29 seconds to go.

After forcing an Escanaba three and out to start the third quarter, BR went 41 yards in nine plays, converting twice on fourth down, as Griffin scored from eight yards out and Avery Montgomery added the two-point conversion to make it 17-14.

“We were able to stick with things and keep it working,” said Selzer. “We definitely have the speed and that helped a little bit.”

The crucial play of the game came in the fourth quarter when Lamb was tackled after a 25 yard run and the officials ruled he had fumbled the ball. The Cardinals recovered at the Esky 32 yard line, but took over at their 17 after a 15-yard penalty against the Eskymos was tacked on. Three plays later, Griffin was in the end zone again, this time from 11 yards out to put BR in front.

“We got the fumble and that was a big momentum switch,” Selzer said. “Deshaun did a great job of running hard at the end to put it in the end zone.”

Montgomery led the Cardinals with 75 yards on eight carries, while Griffin added 42 yards on 12 totes. Childress was 9 of 19 passing for 95 yards.

Big Rapids (7-3) moves on to face Chippewa Hills in a district final next weekend.

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