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Injuries, turnovers plague Posen in playoff opening loss to Hale

News Photo by Ben Murphy AJ Brunet takes the ball to the edge for a big gain.

For the first part of Posen’s Division 2 eight-man playoff opener at Hale, things couldn’t have gone much better.

An early defensive stop and quick touchdown gave the Vikings the early lead, but an injury to a key player and three costly turnovers proved fatal, as they suffered a 72-8 season-ending loss Saturday afternoon.

“I thought we came out of the gates pretty strong,” head coach Greg Pietsch said. “I thought we held our own in the first quarter, but we had a key injury with Lucas Stone getting hurt. He is a huge part of our team, and that really hurt, and then it was downhill from there. My hat goes off to Hale. They played a good football game. We lost to a really good football team today.”

The Eagles started the contest with the ball on their own 46-yard line. While they were able to methodically march down the field to the red zone, the Viking defense stood tall.

On a Hale third-and-six at the 20-yard line, Chase Dubie broke into the backfield to sack Hale’s quarterback, good for a two-yard loss. On the ensuing fourth-down play, a gang of Viking tacklers chased down a completed screen pass for no gain, shifting possession to Posen on its own 22-yard line.

News Photo by Ben Murphy Posen’s Chase Dubie looks for room to run during Saturday’s playoff loss at Hale.

Posen’s first offensive play was four-yard completion from Dubie to AJ Brunet. It’s second play was an electric 74-yard touchdown run by Stone. Stone took the handoff from Dubie, made a would-be tackler miss at the line and then was off to the races, down the right sideline and into the end zone. Dubie ran a quarterback draw on the ensuing two-point conversion, giving Posen an 8-0 lead with 6:27 to go in the opening quarter.

Things quickly turned sour for the Vikings from there, however.

Hale completed a pair of fourth-down conversions on its next drive, which eventually turned into an 11-yard touchdown run to pull within 8-6. Posen coughed up the football on the second play of its next series to give it right back, allowing Hale to tack on a quick 26-yard rushing touchdown, giving it a 14-8 lead. To compound matters, Stone was injured on the touchdown run in attempt to chase down the ball-carrier. He left the game with a leg injury and was unable to return.

“He is not only a threat on offense,” Pietsch said of Stone. “On defense, his speed, his tackling ability, and his instincts really allow him to be a great defender. He is able to eliminate a lot of big plays, just because you have him out there. They just ran big play after big play when he was out. I knew if something happened to Stone or Dubie, we would be in trouble, and that’s what happened today. Losing him really hurt us.”

Without Stone in the lineup, the Posen offense not only stalled out, but turned the ball over two more times before the half, fumbling the ball away to the opportunistic Eagles. Hale scored three touchdowns in the span of about four minutes of game time, giving them a 34-8 lead with 8:17 to play in the half, and the rout was on.

News Photo by Ben Murphy Jack Romel sets to throw a pass.

“In order to beat a really good Hale team, we were going to have to play a turnover-free game, that was what we emphasized at practice the entire week,” Pietsch said. “We not only turned the ball over, they were able to capitalize off of those and it really hurt us. Mistakes happen, though, in football, and you have to figure out a way to bounce back from them.”

Hale tacked on two more scores in the final minutes of the second quarter to hold a commanding 48-8 lead at the half. Despite a running clock eating away at the rest of the contest, the Eagles were able to rush in for three more scores in the second half.

“Hale has really improved over the last few years, and it looks like they were really playing for something today,” Pietsch said. “They played with a lot of fire, and we got beat by a better team.”

Stone finished with 78 yards and a touchdown on three carries before leaving with the injury, and Brunet ran six times for 55 yards. Dubie finished with eight tackles to lead the defense.

Posen finishes the season 2-4 and graduates Stone, Dubie, Brunet, Ben Romel, and Luke Chappa.

“We had a great group of seniors this year that were great role models for the younger players,” Pietsch said. “I am looking forward to the future and bouncing back from this loss. We have a bright future ahead of us and we have some good kids coming up, too.

“We had a young team this year,” the coach added. “Of the 14 kids who suited up today, seven were freshmen. I think they gained some extremely valuable experience and were able to se what a playoff atmosphere was like. We can get into the offseason now, and I think the kids are looking forward to basketball. Chris Keller (Posen’s varsity basketball coach) is great with the kids. He has a great program and they’re looking forward to that, now.”

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