4th ranked Standish-Sterling defeats conference powerhouse Ogemaw Heights
OGEMAW HEIGHTS - Sep. 12, 2008 - Defense may win championships, but it helps a lot to have the offense scoring points as well.
Standish-Sterling's defense outscored both Ogemaw Heights and its own offense Friday in claiming a 19-15 North East Michigan Conference victory. Despite playing without third-year starter and all-state candidate Adam Gulvas -- victim of a severely dislocated finger in practice -- the Panther defense scored a pair of touchdowns and overcame three turnovers and an offense frustrated by 19 penalties.
"Our defense did a great job, even when it was ugly," said SSC coach Paul Walderzak. "It was a great effort. The physical effort was outstanding; once we start doing the little things we should be even better.
"The offense is a little behind, but we'll keep working on that."
The offense will have to do without quarterback Austin Collier for a game (vs. Warren Conner Creek) after he was tossed from the contest in the fourth quarter after too vociferously arguing the Panthers' 17th penalty of the night.
Until that point, Collier paced the offense with 102 rushing yards on 18 carries and threw for 67 yards, including a 37-yard scoring strike on a fourth down play to Mark Lorence that gave SSC a 13-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
Two plays later, Collier picked off a pass and returned it 25 yards for what proved to be the game-clinching score.
"I can't fault the defense; they played very well," said Ogemaw Heights coach Andrew Pratley. "They made a lot of stops.
"Offensively we just made too many mistakes. I thought we'd fixed them, but tonight it didn't happen."
The Panthers held Ogemaw to just 36 yards rushing, led by 28 on six carries by Anthony Carollo.
Eric Noble threw for 133 yards on 12-of-29 passing, with Andrew Funsch and Alex Rose catching four passes apiece.
Ogemaw didn't score again until one second remained, when SSC took an intentional safety with one second left instead of trying to punt out of its own end zone.
That cut it to 19-9, but when the Panthers were flagged for a pair of 15-yard penalties on the ensuing free kick, the game couldn't end on a defensive penalty. Ogemaw ended up with the ball on the SSC 14-yard line, and Eric Noble finished off the night hitting Andrew Funsch for a touchdown that cut it to 19-15.
No PAT was attempted.
Neither offense had consistent success at any point in the game. SSC's first score was set up by its own turnover. The Falcons' Kyle Scott made a leaping interception of Collier on the 2-yard line, but two plays later, Ogemaw fumbled the ball in its own end zone, and SSC's Alex Werner dove into the pile to recover it for a 6-0 lead.
The Falcons' lone scoring drive until the final game of the play went 63 yards, including 35 donated by the Panthers on three penalties. Noble connected with Funsch on a 17-yard scoring pass for the score with 2:21 left in the first quarter, followed by Jarritt Orlando's PAT.
The rest of the first half featured stalled drives, a flurry of yellow flags, and interceptions by SSC's Mitchell McFarland and Ogemaw's John Hughes that kept it at 7-6 into the third quarter.
A muffed punt that was recovered by Josh Augustine at the 50-yard line set up the Panthers’ go-ahead score. On 4th-and-5 at the Ogemaw 30, Collier had a 15-yard run erased by a penalty, but on 4th-and-7 on the next play, he hit Lorence on a slant that the Panther wide out took to the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Zach Neid led SSC (3-0, 1-0 NEMC) with 13 total tackles and McFarland had two interceptions. Conrad Laurion was in on 17 tackles for Ogemaw, with Funsch adding nine.
Walderzak didn't have anything to say about the penalties, but said the Falcon defense was responsible for a lot of his team's offensive struggles.
"I thought Ogemaw played a great, great game," he said. "Their defense was outstanding. We knew we'd have to defend their passing game, which is very good, and (Anthony) Carollo runs so hard. Considering how much our defense was on the field, I'm very glad they were up to the task."
With the Falcons at 1-2 (0-1 NEMC) and having very little margin for error if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive, Pratley was already looking toward next week.
"We've got to get better," he said. "Tawas (next week's opponent) is a good team. We've got to find a way to win some games.
"I'm just proud of my program tonight for playing with class."