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Early season reset leads Vikings back to playoffs

POSEN–Two weeks into the season, the Posen football team found itself at a crossroads.

The Vikings were winless, banged up and wondering what the future held for their season.

When the Vikings met for practice the next Monday, the message from the coaches was simple: the rest of the season starts right now.

“I remember it vividly. We lost a tough ball game (against Pellston), we made some mistakes and we had some injuries,” Posen coach Greg Pietsch said. “We sat everyone down on Monday and we regrouped.”

The message resonated with the Vikings, who won six of their next seven games, doing a complete 180 on their season and setting up a playoff showdown against a familiar opponent.

They’ll host Cedarville at 7 p.m. on Friday in a Division 2 eight-man pre-regional contest.

“We’ve learned and moved on (from) Week 2,” Pietsch said. “We’re a better team because of it. It’s not easy (to rally from being 0-2), but we have a great group of kids that have responded.”

Friday’s game will mark the third time in five years that these two teams have met in the playoffs and each of the last two contests have gone to the Trojans. Cedarville defeated Posen 22-20 in a 2015 regional game and won again last season, 44-0 in a regional game.

Cedarville won’t be any less formidable this time around. The Trojans enter the game with a 5-4 record, but have lost to Powers North Central, Pickford and Engadine, all of whom are playoff teams.

“They’re always tough. They always come out of the gates swinging and we’re expecting to play a really tough team,” Pietsch said.

In what are expected to be sloppy and wet conditions, the Vikings will look to their running game to shine even brighter on the playoff stage.

Tyler Hincka has been Posen’s breakout star this season and will be counted on to have another big game. The 5-foot-6, 140-pound senior has a program record 2,009 yards this season and 25 touchdowns while averaging 11.4 yards per carry.

Chase Dubie has also had a solid season for Posen, rushing for 509 yards and four touchdowns.

Pietsch gave credit to his offensive linemen–Cameron Paull, Gabe Jakubcin and Gage Kasubowski and ends Wyatt Romel and Eyan Hincka–for opening holes for Posen’s running game.

Cedarville have made the playoffs 15 years running and are just a year removed from a run to the Division 2 eight-player semifinals. To get past the Vikings, Cedarville will need a better finish than last week when they allowed 34 unanswered points to Engadine in a 54-20 loss.

The Trojans have a balanced offense with plenty of big play ability led by quarterback Trey Paquin. Grant Fountain leads Cedarville’s backfield and both Fountain and Thomas Bohn are two of Paquin’s favorite targets.

In such a high stakes game, Pietsch is also counting on the leadership of quarterback George Kroll. The senior is a three-year starter for Posen and has displayed good leadership in his second year as Posen’s signal caller. While directing a Posen offense that averages better than 44 points a game, Kroll has also shown a knack for big play ability. He threw just two passes in a Week 9 win over Manistee Catholic Central, but both went for touchdowns. The week before against Au Gres, Kroll willed Posen down the field late and rushed for the winning touchdown and go-ahead conversion.

In last year’s postseason, Kroll accounted for three touchdowns in a win over Kinda-North Huron.

“He’s a great leader and I think he’ll make a great coach someday,” Pietsch said. “He’s got a special presence about him and he’s a winner. His leadership has been tremendous.”

Despite being the smallest school in the field of 288 playoff participants, Posen will be raring to go on Friday as the Vikings seek their third playoff win in 11 years as an eight-player football program.

“It’s been a challenging season for us and nothing came easy, but we’ve been able to overcome adversity and grow as a team and that’s what football is all about,” Pietsch said. “We’re healthier and we’re excited for another challenge. We know what kind of game we’re going to get playing a team like Cedarville, but we’ve improved as a football team, we’re playing our best at the right time and we’re ready for our next challenge.”