Strong fourth quarter play leads Posen past Atlanta
ATLANTA–For the second straight week, the Posen football team came through in the fourth quarter.
Sam Brunet ran for a pair of touchdowns and the Vikings scored 16 unanswered fourth quarter points to pull away from Atlanta for a 42-26 victory on Thursday at Atlanta High School.
The win gives the Vikings a 4-0 start to the season for the first time since 2015.
After Atlanta’s Ethan Byrne scored on a 29-yard run to knot the game 26-26 with 10:52 left, Posen kicked into gear on both sides of the ball.
The win came just a week after Posen did the same thing against Onaway, coming through in the fourth quarter to emerge victorious.
“It says a lot about our character. I think there’s no quit,” Posen coach Greg Pietsch said of the Vikings’ fourth quarter success. “This is a team that just loves to compete, they play well together, nobody is the superstar.”
Brunet put Posen ahead for good with an 80-yard touchdown run with 7:38 left. George Kroll ran in the conversion to put Posen ahead 34-26.
Just over three minutes later, Brunet found pay dirt again, this time from 15 yards out. He snagged Kroll’s conversion pass to give Posen a 42-26 lead with 4:32 left.
Brunet finished the night with three touchdowns and had 229 yards rushing on 22 carries.
“It was about this big,” Brunet said of his last run, spreading his hands wide. “For me, it (the two touchdowns) helps me fire up the team (and helps) make sure that they know we’re not out of it.”
Posen got the job done offensively, but came up just as big on defense in the final 11 minutes. Two plays after Byrne scored, the Vikings fumbled on a handoff and the ball was recovered by Atlanta’s Manny Diaz.
The recovery gave the Huskies (1-3) the ball on Posen’s 41 yard line, but the Vikings forced Atlanta into a three-and-out.
The Vikings did the same thing on Atlanta’s next drive and forced a turnover on downs during Atlanta’s final drive of the night.
Not converting on the fumble recovery was a huge blow for the Huskies, who gained no yards on three plays before punting.
“That was a big one and there were a few other offensive play (where) we were having trouble getting them from the sidelines to the huddle and executing them. That didn’t help us out either,” Atlanta coach Troy Cheedie said. “Things like that, they make a big difference in a football game.”
Aaron Cuzzort threw two of his three touchdowns in the first half–both to Trenton Whitt–to give Atlanta a 14-12 halftime lead over the Vikings. Cuzzort found Whitt for a 32-yard touchdown strike early in the second quarter and again just before halftime, this time from eight yards out.
Kroll had a pair of one-yard touchdown runs for the Vikings in the first half, but Posen missed two conversion attempts. Atlanta held the lead at halftime after Trace Juergens ran in a conversion on Atlanta’s first touchdown.
Cuzzort finished the night with 189 yards and three scores on 12-of-19 passing. He also led Atlanta on the ground with 62 yards on 16 carries.
Juergens led Atlanta’s receivers with two catches for 80 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown. Whitt had two scores and three catches for 45 yards.
“I’m proud of how the guys played. I couldn’t ask for much more; a 1-2 team going against a 3-0 (team) and I think we gave them a run for their money,” Cheedie said. “A couple plays there in the fourth quarter (go differently) and it could’ve been a different ball game.”
The third quarter became a shootout with both teams matching one another nearly point for point. Brunet gave Posen an 18-14 lead on a 54-yard run with 8:16 left, breaking through the middle to race untouched to the end zone. Atlanta responded when Cuzzort hit Juergens in stride for a 78-yard touchdown, putting the Huskies ahead 20-18.
Posen pulled off a bit of trickery to take the lead back and was rewarded after gambling big on fourth down. Facing 4th-and-5 on Atlanta’s 30 yard line, Posen ran a flea flicker with Kroll pitching the ball to Mark Wisniewski, who chucked a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Misiak. Kroll hooked up with Brunet for the conversion and Posen led 26-20 with 2:10 left in the third quarter.
Atlanta answered back yet again and forced an encroachment penalty to Posen on fourth down to keep its drive alive. That play came right after Cuzzort took off on 3rd-and-16 and got to Atlanta’s 44 yard line, setting up a fourth-and-inches try.
With a fresh set of downs after the penalty, Atlanta found pay dirt just four plays later when Byrne broke through the middle and raced up the left sideline to score from 29 yards out.
Thursday’s game marked the first time the two teams have officially played since 2008–Posen forfeited in 2009–and could mark the rebirth of a once competitive North Star League rivalry.
“My hat goes off to Atlanta. They’ve got some really good players and they gave us a heck of a ball game,” Pietsch said. “It was a great test for us tonight.”