Tigers tame the Owls

OSCODA-No challenge was too big for the Alcona football team on Friday.

A 14 point deficit at halftime? No problem.

Trailing by 12 points with two minutes left in the third quarter? Nothing to it.

A 19-point deficit with 10 minutes left to play? Easy as pie.

The Tigers overcame every obstacle thrown their way and at the end of a slugfest with Oscoda at Oscoda High School, it was Alcona who emerged the winner, topping the Owls 56-55.

Trailing 55-36 with 10:05 left to play, the Tigers (5-1, 2-1 North Star League-Big Dipper) put together arguably one of the greatest comebacks in school history, outscoring the Owls 20-0 in the remaining time.

“It feels fantastic. Anytime you can come back at them with two onside kicks and we got the one, our defense stepped up and it feels fantastic to get the win,” Alcona junior running back Brock Franklin said.

Franklin sealed the deal with 2:54 left, scoring on a six yard run to give Alcona a 56-55 lead. The final drive was set up by a gutsy decision by the Tigers to go for an onside kick which they subsequently recovered.

Oscoda (4-2, 0-2 NSL-Big Dipper) got the ball back on its own 15 yard line with 2:47 to play and marched methodically down the field. Oscoda was helped by several heads-up plays along the way. On a fourth-and-1 try, Jacob Malak gained just enough forward progress to keep the drive alive and on the next play he found Hunter Huckabey for a 22 yard gain down the right sideline, putting Oscoda at the 15.

Two plays later, Oscoda appeared to score the game winning touchdown as Malak found Nick Cochell in the end zone. Cochell was whistled out of bounds however and a subsequent incomplete pass forced fourth down with two seconds left.

Oscoda had initially lined up to have Taylor Johnson attempt a 31-yard field goal try, but after Alcona called two timeouts to ice her, Oscoda went with a fake and Malak’s pass attempt fell woefully short.

“It’s hard when you call something. It looks a certain way in your mind. You say ‘Hey we’re going to lineup, we’ll kick the field goal and we’ll be fine, but when you put the dinner on the table, it doesn’t look like gourmet anymore,” Oscoda coach Dave LeVasseur said of the Owls’ choice to go for it.

Franklin finished the night with 361 yards and was a thorn in Oscoda’s side the entire night, finishing with seven touchdowns. His big night put him at 1,268 yards for the season to go with 20 touchdowns.

It was Franklin who pulled Alcona from its last deficit. With 8:44 left, he scored from 20 yards out to make it 55-44 and added touchdowns of 71 and six yards to put Alcona ahead in the remaining time.

On the other side of the ball, Malak matched Franklin in big plays for most of the game. He finished with 255 yards on 25 carries and four touchdowns.

Malak was on fire in the first half, scoring on touchdown runs of 46, 21 and 13 yards to help the Owls score 21 unanswered points in the second quarter.

But as the game wound down, Alcona’s defense rose up and put the clamps down on Malak and the Owls when it counted. After Antonio Raona intercepted Alcona’s Alex Stephenson and scored on an 11-yard interception return to make it 55-36 with 10:05 left, the game belonged to Alcona.

“We just talked about playing fast and doing your job and that’s all we could do,” Franklin said. “Our offensive line did a great job and they stepped up.”

Franklin got Alcona going early in the third quarter, needing just one play to rumble 45 yards for a touchdown to make it 42-36. Both teams traded punts until Malak scored on a 43-yard run with 2:22 left.

Huckabey added 100 rushing yards on 11 carries and two scores. All told, Oscoda gained 439 rushing yards and Alcona finished with 445.

Raona led Oscoda’s defense with 10 tackles and an interception.

The tone of the game was established right away as Huckabey scored on a 21-yard run on Oscoda’s first drive. Franklin promptly answered with a 55-yard touchdown run on Alcona’s first play to make it 8-7 and Nick Cochell answered with a 75-yard kickoff return for a score on the ensuing kickoff, making it 14-8 before the game was four minutes old.

“Oscoda’s got one whale of a team, a well-coached team,” Alcona coach Jason Somers said. “What does this mean for Alcona football? This is a huge step for our underclassmen to see why we don’t quit and why coaches are always telling them to keep going.”

Franklin scored on a 12-yard run to tie the game at 14 with 5:34 left in the first quarter and Malak answered with a 46-yard touchdown run on Oscoda’s next drive, putting the Owls ahead 21-14.

Stephenson scored on a 25-yard run with 1:50 left to give Alcona a 22-21 lead after one quarter of play.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.