The end of the line
Hausbeck, Nouvel top Tigers in regional final
SAGINAW — Tate Hausbeck proved too tough for the Alcona football team to tame on Friday.
Hausbeck threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores as Saginaw Nouvel defeated the Tigers 54-34 in a Division 8 regional final at Nouvel’s Boyd Field.
Running back Joshua Kuligowski added three rushing touchdowns for Nouvel (12-0) which will face either Frankfort or West Iron County in the semifinals next week.
Playing in its first regional final, the Tigers got off to a rough start, falling behind 28-0 early in the second quarter. Alcona battled back to make it 34-14 at halftime, but for every big play the Tigers made, Hausbeck seemed to have three or four to answer.
“I was pleased with the effort. We got down early (and the) kids didn’t give up. They fought to the end and played with a lot of heart and a lot of pride,” Alcona coach Jason Somers said. “That’s real important in these types of games that you represent yourself and hold yourself high.”
Alex Stephenson had three rushing touchdowns for the Tigers (9-3) and Jack Hutchinson added a pair of rushing scores.
Alcona caught Nouvel by surprise to open the second half, opting for an onside kick which it recovered. Alcona cashed in on the opportunity six plays later when Hutchinson scored on a two-yard run to make it 34-20.
Any momentum the Tigers gained from that drive went away fast as Hausbeck kept the ball on Nouvel’s next play and ran 58 yards for a touchdown. After an Alcona punt on the next drive, Hausbeck ended a long drive with a six-yard scoring pass to Peter Snyder on 4th-and-goal to make it 48-20 with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
“They do a lot of things really pretty well. I thought our kids were ready for it. Maybe we couldn’t simulate some of the speed in practice, but all in all, the scheme was there (to step them),” Somers said.
Stephenson, who finished with 96 yards on 14 carries, broke through the middle on a fourth-and-inches attempt on Alcona’s next drive to race 40 yards untouched to the end zone to make it 48-26 with 10:53 left. But once again, Nouvel answered back when Kuligowski raced 42 yards to paydirt on Nouvel’s next series.
Stephenson added one final score with 46 seconds left, scoring on another 40-yard run.
“Alex is just a really smart player, a good player, a really good emotional leader and to see him get in there and play well in the final game was pretty nice to see,” Somers said.
Kuligowski had 143 yards on 10 carries and three scores and Hausbeck was 13-of-19 passing for 231 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 81 yards on seven carries. Snyder led all receivers with five catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. Keanu Vega had two catches for 48 yards and two scores.
Hutchinson led Alcona on the ground with 186 yards on 24 carries. Tim Hutchinson had 20 carries for 130 yards. Stephenson was 2-of-7 passing for eight yards.
Defensively, Devon Mills led Alcona with 12 tackles and two fumble recoveries and Mason Clark had seven tackles.
The Tigers got off to a rough start to begin the game. Their first four drives ended in a punt, a turnover on downs, an interception and another punt before two rushing scores before halftime. In contrast, Nouvel was hot from the get-go, scoring on its first five drives.
On Nouvel’s second play, Hausbeck took off and raced 11 yards for a score. Kuligowski added two touchdown runs of five yards each and sandwiched between them, Hausbeck found Vega for an 39-yard score. He found Vega again with 6:55 left in the half for an 11-yard touchdown.
Alcona finally got on the board with 8:26 left in the half when Stephenson scored on a one-yard run. The drive was highlighted by a 31-yard run from Stephenson and a 34-yard run from Jack Hutchinson before Alcona scored.
Jack Hutchinson scored with 4:40 left, pulling away from defenders to race 42 yards to paydirt. Damion Stewart caught a conversion pass from Stephenson to make it 34-14.
Alcona forced a four-and-out on Nouvel just before halftime, but the Tigers missed a scoring opportunity on the other end, eventually turning the ball over on downs.
Somers was proud of his team’s effort even in defeat and was emotional in describing the growth of his 13 seniors who will graduate as members of the school’s first football district championship team.
“These guys are pretty special. This is my first group that I had all the way through. All of those guys played down here (against Nouvel) when they were sophomores,” Somers said. “To see them mature and play the way they did today, I know they’re set up well for life.”