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A sweet victory

Hurons get first win of 2019 on homecoming night

News Photo by James Andersen Rogers City quarterback Isaac Hein, right, tries to avoid Alcona defender Dominic Howe during the first half of a football game on Friday at Gilpin Field.

ROGERS CITY–With his Rogers City football team trailing by two with less than 10 minutes to play, Jesse Fenstermaker’s message to his team was simple.

Don’t give up.

The Hurons heeded their coach’s advice, kept playing and went the clock hit zeroes, they had a hard-fought win to show for their efforts.

Clayton Henry scored on a one-yard plunge with 1:57 left and Rogers City got in the win column for the first time this season, rallying to defeat Alcona 18-14 at Gilpin Field on homecoming night on Friday.

Trailing 14-6 after three quarters, the Hurons (1-5) scored on two of their first three quarter drives for their first win in an otherwise tough season. After getting shut out the last two weeks and being limited to 20 points through five weeks, everything came together on Friday.

Rogers City reached double digits in scoring for the first time this season, moved the ball late and played strong defense against an Alcona (2-4) squad that played hard.

“It was a (full) effort from these guys, all heart. I’ve known from Day One that these guys could do this. It’s taken a little longer then I thought for them to realize they can actually do it, but now they know,” Fenstermaker said. “Now they know and they feel pretty darn good.”

J.D. Ellenberger ran for a 17-yard touchdown on fourth down to cut the lead to 14-12 with 8:39 left, but the Hurons’ attempt to tie the game failed. On the conversion, Ellenberger tried to run the ball up the middle and was stuffed by Alcona’s defense.

“I told them, ‘Don’t give up. Plenty of time on the clock, get a three-and-out, stop them offensively’ and we did,” Fenstermaker said. “We played a great defensive game tonight. I knew we could and we just had to do it.”

On Alcona’s next drive, Rogers City forced a punt and then began a methodical drive from its own 21 for the go-ahead score.

The Hurons started slowly and appeared to be headed for a three-and-out but Lewis Fleming had other ideas. The senior running back, who was named Mr. Football at halftime, broke through for a 46-yard gain on third down, pushing the ball deep into Alcona territory.

Fleming finished the game with 84 rushing yards on nine carries and caught three passes for 40 yards.

“That was all Lewis Fleming deciding he had had enough and he wanted to take one,” Fenstermaker said of Fleming’s 46-yard run. “That’s Mr. Football. That’s what it takes.”

Ellenberger took handoffs on the next four plays and appeared to score on a four-yard run, but the Hurons were whistled for holding, pushing the ball back to Alcona’s 15. Alcona forced fourth down again and again it was Fleming who up big, dashing eight yards to Alcona’s 1. Two plays later, Henry pushed the ball over the goal line for the touchdown.

Alcona got the ball back around midfield with just under two minutes left, but the Tigers’ drive for the game-winning touchdown ended quickly as they were stripped of the ball on a run play and the Hurons recovered; a play Henry also had a hand in.

“We watched them on film and we couldn’t figure out how they hadn’t won a game. That’s a really good football team,” Alcona coach Jason Somers said of the Hurons. “We prepared for a dog fight all week, boy we got it and unfortunately we made a couple of mistakes that hurt us in the end.”

For most of the game, both teams matched one another play for play. Both sides scored an early touchdown. Both sides forced a turnover in the first half and at halftime the score was tied 6-6.

Alcona pulled ahead early in the third quarter when Michael Basner found a hole and raced 51 yards to pay dirt. A successful conversion gave the Tigers a 14-6 lead with 10:20 left in the period.

After Basner’s score, Alcona recovered an onside kick attempt, but was forced to punt soon after. Rogers City got to around midfield on its first drive of the second half, but turned the ball over on downs.

Ellenberger finished the night with two scores, catching a seven-yard pass from Isaac Hein with 9:31 left in the first half to give the Hurons the lead.

Hein had one of his best games of the season, finishing 13-of-18 passing for 113 yards and a touchdown. Ellenberger caught five passes for 21 yards and a touchdown and had 117 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

Basner led Alcona’s offense with 77 yards and a touchdown on seven carries and Zach Stephenson had an eight-yard touchdown run to tie the game 6-6 with 4:31 left in the first half. Logan Witham and Mason Clark led Alcona’s defense with 15 and 11 tackles respectively.