Central Lake wins 8-player barnburner

Deckerville’s Isaac Keinath, right, throws the ball to a teammate while Central Lake’s Dylan Michael attempts to block him Saturday afternoon, Nov. 8, 2017, during the MHSAA 8-Player championships at the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)


Journal Sports Writer

MARQUETTE — Gavin Mortenson threw for 127 yards while teammate Grant Papineau had 181 on the ground as Central Lake came from behind in the second half to defeat Deckerville 32-30 in a thrilling state championship football game played Saturday at the Superior Dome in Marquette.

The teams were vying for the MHSAA eight-player Division 1 title in the return of this game to the Upper Peninsula. The first eight-player title was decided in November 2011 at the dome, but has been in Greenville in the Lower Peninsula ever since.

Saturday’s accomplishment for Central Lake marks the school’s first state football title in also their first state finals appearance, giving the Trojans, which co-oped with Ellsworth, a perfect 13-0 season. Deckerville finishes its year at 13-2.

Central Lake head coach Rob Heeke said it was a tough road to get to the Superior Dome.

“These kids have battled through so much this year,” Heeke said. “It’s been fun, it’s been a blast. They’re excited and this is pretty special.

“Just add one more to the season and add one more to the story. A lot of times this year people didn’t think we had it in us or believed in us. I challenged them and (the team) challenged each other at halftime and the results speak for themselves.”

Mortenson couldn’t put earning his school’s first state title into words.

“This is absolutely amazing,” he said. “I’m at a loss for words right now. It just hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Asked if he was going to stop smiling, Mortenson had one response: “I don’t think it’ll ever come off.”

Deckerville head coach Bill Brown said the defeat came at the hands of a quality opponent.

“We played hard and this game could have went either way,” he said. “They’re (Central Lake) a quality team with a quality coach.”

Brown added that his team went further than anyone expected.

“We weren’t supposed to be here this year,” he said. “We’ll just keep doing the same thing and strive all the time. This team won’t be defined by what happened today, but (by) our overall body of work this year.”

After Deckerville couldn’t capitalize on the opening possession, Central Lake struck on its first drive when Skyler Spangler found the end zone on a 5-yard run. The two-point conversion was good to put the Trojans up 8-0.

Deckerville responded, using a lengthy drive before Eagles quarterback Isaac Keinath connected with Zachary Ostrowski for a 12-yard TD pass and with the two-point conversion, the game was tied 8-8.

Later on, with Deckerville up 16-14, Kenton Bowerman caught a 31-yard pass from Keinath on 4th-and-6 for a TD with less than a minute to go in the half. A good two-point attempt made it 24-14 at halftime.

Central Lake received the ball after halftime and climbed right back in it with a TD. The Deckerville defense didn’t make it easy, though. After a 28-yard rush by Papineau to set up shop at the Deckerville 1, the Trojans’ offense was stuffed for the next three plays until Papineau finally punched it in on 4th-and-goal to cut the Deckerville’s lead to 24-20.

But the Eagles once again responded shortly after when Keinath found Wyatt Janowiak for his third TD pass to go up 30-20.

Central Lake struck back again. With 11 seconds remaining in the third, Skyler Spangler rushed in from the two yards out to again cut Deckerville’s lead to four points.

The Central Lake defense came up strong in the fourth. After the Trojans lost the ball on a fumble, Deckerville drove into the red zone but two costly false-start penalties forced the Eagles back and eventually turned the ball over on downs.

On the ensuing possession, Mortenson found Papineau on a pass play for 51 yards. Then on 3rd-and-3 from the Deckerville 6, Mortenson took a quarterback keeper to the end zone to give Central Lake its first lead since the first quarter with 2:49 to play.

After Deckerville fumbled on the next drive to give the Central Lake the ball back, the Eagles defense stepped up again to give the offense one final chance.

Keinath found Bowerman on a 47-yard pass to the CL 35. The Eagles got as far as the 20, but on 4th down with no timeouts, Keinath’s pass to the end zone was incomplete to seal the result.

Papineau added 51 yards receiving while Spangler had 101 on the ground. Leaders for Deckerville include Bowerman, who had 83 yards rushing, and Keinath, who tossed for 125 yards and three TDs.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.