Defense leads the way for Rogers City in homecoming victory

News Photo by James Andersen Rogers City's Lewis Fleming (30) carries the ball during the first half of a game against Manton on Friday at Gilpin Field in Rogers City.

ROGERS CITY–As Jerry Reed’s “Amos Moses” blared over the PA system, members of the Rogers City football team bopped up and down, belting out the lyrics.

It felt like a playoff atmosphere and even though it wasn’t, the Hurons treated it like one.

Caleb Bade and Jeff Ellenberger each ran for a touchdown and Rogers City’s defense forced three turnovers en route to a 14-0 win over Manton on Friday at Gilpin Field in the team’s regular season finale.

The win gives the Hurons (8-1) eight wins in a season for the first time since 1998.

“They just want to keep going. They wanted 8-1. They treated this like a playoff game,” Rogers City coach Jesse Fenstermaker said. “Their work ethic, it’s unmatched. Even when they’re goofing off, they’re still working their butts off.”

With a playoff berth in hand, the Hurons took care of business, scoring on scored on back-to-back drives in the second quarter. They backed that up with several big plays on defense to put the brakes on any plans the Rangers had for a comeback. Ethan Hincka had a fumble recovery and an interception for the Hurons and Austin Cook had a fumble recovery.

In addition to the turnovers, the Hurons made key stops when they had to, perhaps none bigger than when they stuffed Manton on a 4th-and-1 run play early in the fourth quarter.

“We work on that a ton, we have all season long; getting the ball out and getting on it,” Fenstermaker said of his team’s big defensive night. “We like having the ball with our offense, but man I love watching our defense on the field. They’re everywhere.”

On a wet, rainy Homecoming Night, the Hurons found just enough offense to claim their fourth straight win. After both teams traded punts early, the Hurons found pay dirt when Ellenberger scored an eight yard run. Bade floated a pass to Hincka for a successful conversion and the Hurons led 8-0 with 8:22 left in the first half.

After forcing another Manton punt, the Hurons needed just six plays to score again when Bade hit the left pylon on a keeper and scored from seven yards out to put Rogers City up 14-0 with 2:50 left.

Michael Karsten led Rogers City on the ground with 89 yards on 16 carries and Ellenberger had 56 yards on 11 carries. Bade was 2-for-7 passing for 32 yards and both catches went to Ellenberger.

Manton started the next drive on its own 40, but the Hurons gained the ball back a few plays later when Hincka recovered a fumble. The Rangers got the ball to start the second half, but were ultimately forced to punt. The Rangers fumbled on their next drive and turned the ball over on downs after that.

Rogers City moved the ball somewhat successfully in the second half, but didn’t come close to the red zone. They had little to worry about though as Manton struggled to move the ball too and hurt its chances to rally back with costly turnovers.

Using a no-huddle offense, the Rangers got the ball back with 2:23 to play and moved the ball quickly after a pair of 20-yard catches. A costly penalty ultimately stalled the drive though and on second down, Manton’s quarterback was sacked for a loss for 12 yards. Manton eventually gave the ball back when Hincka intercepted a fourth down pass.

Up next for the Hurons? Waiting to see who they’ll host in a playoff game. The Hurons clinched a playoff spot two weeks ago and will be a postseason participant for the first time since 2009 when the postseason starts next week.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association will announce playoff matchups on Sunday.

“That’s a heck of a bonus for me because I get a couple more weeks with these guys. Every time we win, we get more time,” Fenstermaker said. “That’s an awesome thing because I get to hang around these guys a little longer.”