Salani passes Hancock to win at Gwinn
By RYAN SPITZA
Journal Sports Writer
GWINN — Colton Salani accounted for six touchdowns, five passing and one rushing, and Gwinn couldn’t hang with Hancock’s quick-strike offense as the Bulldogs defeated the Modeltowners 56-32 at McCormick Field on Friday night.
Salani completed just 9 for 11 through the air, but rolled up 245 yards. He added 47 yards on the ground as Hancock improved to 6-1 and secured a spot in the MHSAA playoffs for the third time in school history and the first time since 2006.
Gwinn fell to 2-5 and is officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Modeltowners head coach Dion Brown said defensive mistakes proved costly, just like they’ve been throughout the season.
“I like the kids’ effort but it’s the same mistakes that we’ve been making all year,” Brown said. “Open-field tackles, missing a block here and there, coming from the same guys and it’s the same mistakes every single time.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to play better defense, I mean we gave them four or five touchdowns where we just missed tackles. That’s what I’m disappointed about, but as far as our heart and everything, we were there.”
Hancock head coach Ted Holmstrom credited his players and staff.
“We’re very fortunate to have very good football players and guys that are very dedicated and hard workers,” he said. “We have great coaches and a lot of our ideas are from those men you see tonight. Hopefully tonight is a tribute to them because all of those ideas as far as teamwork and dedication have come together and we have a special team, so it’s nice to see.”
Holmstrom added that reaching the playoffs is special to everyone involved.
“It’s a lot of job satisfaction,” he said. “Our assistant coaches have done an outstanding job and we’re thankful.”
Hancock opened the scoring just over two minutes in when Salani took a fake punt on 4th-and-8 and passed to Grant Hokenson, who took it 54 yards for the score. Brendan LeClaire’s extra point put the Bulldogs up 7-0.
The Modeltowners responded on their next possession. Quarterback On 3rd-and-6, Austin Forbes pitched the ball to Tucker Taylor, who rushed 39 yards to give the GHS a first down and set up on the Hancock 20-yard line. A few plays later on 3rd-and-goal from the 2, Seth Aho ran the ball in for a TD. The failed two-point conversion left Gwinn trailing 7-6.
On the next Hancock possession, the Bulldogs struck on fourth down again when Salani found Alex Nordstrom for a 48-yard TD pass to go up 14-6.
After Gwinn went three and out, Hokenson fumbled the ball after receiving a screen pass from Salani and the Modeltowners recovered at Hancock’s 27. Three plays later, Aho scored from 14 yards away. With Forbes finding Tucker on the two-point try, the game was tied 14-14.
After a power outage in the second quarter that caused a roughly 10-minute delay, Salani rushed in on fourth down from the Gwinn 5 for his third TD.
Aho came up big again on Gwinn’s next possession. After a lengthy 11-play drive, Aho pushed into the end zone from 3 yards out. With another failed two-point try, the Modeltowners trailed just 21-20.
But the Bulldogs went on to score three more touchdowns in the last 5 1/2 minutes of the half. Colton Salani found Hokenson, Austin Salani returned an interception 18 yards and Colton Salani also found Aaron Barnes on an 18-yard pass to make it a commanding 42-20 lead at half.
Gwinn scored twice in the second half, but Hancock didn’t let up, answering with two TDs of their own.
Hancock had 412 yards of total offense to Gwinn’s 409. Hancock had 245 yards through the air and 167 on the ground while Gwinn picked up 165 through the air and 244 on the ground. First downs were 21-12 in favor of Gwinn.
Forbes was 11 for 17 throwing for 165 yards. Other leaders for Gwinn include Aho, who had 178 rushing yards on 35 attempts, and Taylor, who had 146 yards receiving.
Leaders for Hancock aside from Colton Salani were Aaron Barnes, who rushed for 61 yards, and Hokenson, who had 151 receiving yards.
Gwinn faces Bark River-Harris (4-3) at home on Friday. Hancock returns home for a game with West Iron County (5-1).
Email Ryan Spitza at email@example.com