Ramblers Fall 14-6 to St. Francis in District Title Game

November 18, 2019

George Brown looks to run as Owen Bontekoe blocks the way. Photo by Ben Murphy.
McBain’s Gavin Sieland hits the edge for a big gain during Saturday’s division seven district championship loss at Traverse City St. Francis. Photo by Ben Murphy
Kaiden McGillis spills the St. Francis ball carrier. Photo by Ben Murphy

by Ben Murphy
Sports Writer

Fresh off an upset in its playoff opener, McBain nearly did it again on Saturday. The Ramblers took an early lead on Traverse City St. Francis in the division seven district title game at Thirlby Field, but missed out on a few prime opportunities as the game wore on, resulting in a 14-6 season-ending loss.

“I was proud of our effort,” head coach Pat Maloney said. “The guys put their heart and soul into it. It was a difficult way to lose a game period but it was more difficult being a district championship. We left points on the field and really had them feeling uncomfortable most of the game.”

The Ramblers were able to find the end-zone on their second offensive possession, as they capitalized on a short Gladiator punt. McBain started with the ball on the St. Francis 44-yard line and took 10 plays to get that yardage, with George Brown running a quarterback draw through the right side of the line and into the endzone. A failed two-point conversion left McBain ahead 6-0 with 2:58 to play in the opening quarter.

“Brown could run or throw (on the play) depending on how the defense played him and he was able to just run it in,” Maloney said. “Our feeling after that was that we can really move the ball on these guys. We repeated the defensive stops but our offense just couldn’t score when we were close to the end-zone.”

Midway through the second quarter McBain was able to recover a fumble on its own 25-yard line. The Ramblers reached as far as the St. Francis 34-yard line before a fourth-and-one attempt was stopped just short.

The Gladiators used the momentum they gained on defense and turned it into points, getting a 12-yard touchdown run by their quarterback, giving them a 7-6 edge with 1:54 to go in the half. McBain nearly scored before the half, however a pass into the endzone was intercepted after a St. Francis defender and a McBain player each made an attempt at a leaping catch. The St. Francis player was ruled to intercept the ball as the two fell to the ground on what was the last play of the half.

McBain looked primed to regain the lead early in the fourth, as it picked up a first-and-goal at the seven. The Ramblers tossed an interception one play later however, and St. Francis scored its second touchdown of the day moments later, making it 14-6 with 6:44 to play.

“St. Francis pressured our offense most of the day,” Maloney said. “We had a hard time running between the tackles. We were able to pass but inconsistently and near the goal line everything got compressed so we couldn’t stretch the field like we had in earlier drives.

The Ramblers had another big play just miss with about four minutes to go. Sieland was tossed the ball as a running back, but he elected to loft a pass down field. His pass was on the mark but his intended target dropped what would have likely been a touchdown.

McBain eventually turned the ball over on downs and the Gladiators, aided by their quarterback advancing an offensive fumble for a first down were able to run out the clock from there.

“The defense played really well, with the exception of a handful of plays our defense forced them to punt more often than they were used to,” Maloney said. “Tough part of the game is that it played out like a lot of our games this year. Early in the season we lost some close games but improved and later in the season won some close games. We had played a close one against Oscoda the week before but found a way to win. I really felt like we were on the doorstep of figuring out ways to win this close again but we didn’t. Our team defense was all over the place with lots of guys contributing.”

Brown was 12-of-26 passing for 139 yards and three interceptions and he also ran 20 times for 81 yards and one score. Gavin Sieland had 10 receptions for 119 yards and he also added 32 yards on 10 carries.

Trevor Bode led the defense with nine tackles, Brown had six, Sieland took down five and Lucas Scholten had 4.5.

“We had two extra weeks of fun, especially in the snow and extended season that should stay with our players for years to come,” Maloney said of the playoff games. “Awesome memories.”

McBain finishes the season 6-5 overall, however it played in several close contests along the way. The Ramblers started year 1-3 but rebounded to make the playoffs with a 5-4 mark and edged a strong Oscoda squad 14-12 in its playoff opener.

“It was a season full of close competition and we won more than we lost,” Maloney said. “Our senior leaders came away from last year with a goal of improving on last year and winning at least two playoff games. We came within eight points of our goal. It was a bitter feeling being that close but the memories made along the way are priceless and they will be remembered hopefully forever for our players. Love the seniors that stuck to it even when at 1-3 and down 18-0 to Evart at halftime it could have seemed all was lost but they showed it wasn’t and that makes for a successful season and life lesson. Fighting all year to get their named called during Selection Sunday was a blast and winning in Oscoda as an underdog was a neat experience too.”

The Ramblers do take a heavy hit to graduation but are hoping they can find the pieces for another playoff run next fall.

“As for next year, it will be a rebuild around our returning juniors and sophomores,” Maloeny said. “Three years in a row we have been in the playoffs so they don’t know anything less. We are going to need to put many hours to replace some players that have been cornerstones to our success like Sieland, Owen Bontekoe and Brown but we have some good numbers and good young kids so if they work hard they can make memories of their own too.”

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