Robinson, Ovid-Elsie runs over SSC

Brent Baker
When SSC did manage to tackle Ovid-Elsie's Chris Robinson, it usually looked like this. Robinson rushed for 218 yards and four touchdowns on 11 carries -- in the third quarter -- to almost singlehandedly break the Marauders away from a 21-13 halftime lead. Robinson, just a junior, finished with 370 yards rushing on 25 carries and added a first-half touchdown.
Brent Baker
SSC's Cole Walderzak wins a battle for the ball with an Ovid-Elsie defender and breaks into the end zone with a 40-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter of Saturday's contest.
Brent Baker
Standish-Sterling's Trent Fouchey makes a 36-yard catch in the first quarter of Saturday's state semifinal contest.
Brent Baker
Ovid-Elsie running back Chris Robinson, who ripped the Panthers for five touchdowns, greets injured SSC quarterback Austin Collier after the game.
Brent Baker
Standish-Sterling's Brett Blakley reflects as the end of the Panthers' state tournament run comes to an end Saturday with a 55-20 loss to Ovid-Elsie.
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By Brent Baker
Sunrise Sports
Posted

MIDLAND — Standish-Sterling needed to play a near-perfect football game Saturday if it wanted to earn a trip the state finals at Ford Field.

The Panthers were far from perfect, but it very likely wouldn't have changed the outcome if they had been.

Ovid-Elsie's Chris Robinson turned in an unforgettable performance at the right time for the Marauders, running wild for 370 yards and five touchdowns on 25 carries to catapult his team to a 55-20 Division 5 state semifinal victory over SSC and a state championship match up with Muskegon Oakridge on Nov. 29.

"They outperformed us," said SSC coach Paul Walderzak. "They played better than we did and deserved to win.

"We've talked about needing to do the things that we do well in order to win. We didn't block or tackle well and we turned the ball over."

A combination of SSC mistakes and Robinson's brilliance were the catalysts for Ovid-Elsie's 34-point explosion that turned a 21-13 Marauder halftime lead into a rout.

Robinson's third quarter performance was simply awesome. The junior running back exploded for 218 yards and touchdown runs of 35, 56, 44 and 42 yards a cataclysmic seven-minute stretch of the third period.

"He's real good," said SSC linebacker Adam Gulvas. "We had our chances at him, but we didn't wrap up. But he's a great ballplayer."

"He's very good," Walderzak agreed, "but I thought we made him look even better. You're not going to bring him down with arm tackles."

Robinson made the Panther defense look worse than it was. His combination of size and speed was unlike anything they'd seen, but it was his ability to explode through the right hole, dodge tacklers and avoid taking direct hits -- instinct, along with the physical tools -- that set him apart.

His 56-yarder that gave O-E a 41-13 lead and ended any real hopes the Panthers had of another miraculous comeback.

The Panthers didn't help their own cause on the offensive side of the ball. Their three turnovers in the third quarter were more than they'd given up in the past month, and special teams breakdowns -- allowing a blocked punt, blocked extra point and a fumble on a kickoff return -- hastened their downfall. SSC managed just three plays from scrimmage during Ovid-Elsie's outburst, and two were turnovers.

Down eight points at the half, the Panthers were in much better shape than at the same point against Gladstone a week earlier. SSC opened the third quarter with a drive that reached the Ovid-Elsie 33-yard line, but stalled out and had their punt on 4th-and-12 blocked.

The Marauders didn't get a big return off the play, but Robinson broke loose for 41 yards on the next play to set up Cameron Hurst's 14-yard touchdown run.

The Panthers fumbled away the kickoff return, and on a 3rd-and-14 play Robinson raced 35 yards to make it 34-13.

Goosen, playing defensive back, picked off Panther quarterback Austin Collier on SSC's next play from scrimmage, and Robinson's 56-yard Houdini run ended that drive quickly.

SSC's Mitchell McFarland got the Panthers back on the board with an 85-yard kickoff return, but Robinson couldn't be stopped, carrying the ball on three of the Marauders' five offensive plays on the next drive, including his 44-yard scoring run.

Madden intercepted Collier again, this time on a pass tipped at the line, to set up Robinson's final score of the afternoon. The 55-20, 35-point margin started the running clock with 1:30 left in the third quarter.

Any last faint hope of the Panthers staging another comeback was snuffed out on the first play of the fourth quarter when Collier re-injured his sprained ankle and was carried off the field.

It was a far cry from the competitive, entertaining first half. Though the Panthers struggled to contain Robinson -- his 150 yards was relatively benign compared to what was to come -- SSC had its offense working, especially through the air.

Madden scored first to give O-E the early lead, but Collier's 40-yard touchdown strike to Cole Walderzak, who had to wrestle the ball away from a Marauder defender, quickly got SSC back in the game. Ovid-Elsie blocked the extra point to maintain a 7-6 lead.

Robinson's 50-yard touchdown run capped a seven-play, 97-yard drive early in the second quarter. It may well have been the most demoralizing play from the Panthers' perspective and set the stage for what he did to SSC in the second half,

What was originally supposed to be a halfback option pass quickly broke down, and the Panthers had Robinson trapped 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Seemed to, anyway.

Robinson juked, spun and slithered around and out of the trap, crossed from one sideline to the other, then turned on the afterburners to outrun the remaining Panther defenders to the end zone.

The Panthers responded by putting together what turned out to be their best drive of the day, moving 65 yards on eight plays, including Mark Lorence's 20-yard leaping grab of a Collier pass, to pull to within 14-13 on Collier's 2-yard dive.

Ovid-Elsie's final score of the first half came without Robinson touching the ball. Quarterback Jason Goosen completed a pair of passes to Madden for 65 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown strike, to give the Marauders a 21-13 lead at the break.

Goosen finished 6-of-13 for 127 yards, with Madden catching three passes for 75 yards and rushing for 66 yards on six carries.

Collier was 6-of-12 for 108 yards, but hampered by his ankle rushed for a net 0 yards on 10 carries despite scoring SSC's second touchdown. Trevor Trombley led the Panthers on the ground with 49 yards on seven carries. Lorence caught three passes for 34 yards and Trent Fouchey caught two for 45, including a 36-yarder on which he actually beat Robinson on the play.

Though there were plenty of tears of disappointment for the Panthers (12-1), there weren't any tears of regret.

"I'm really proud of what these kids accomplished," Walderzak said. "They really should be proud of themselves, too. I hate to see it end this way, but they had a great season."

"We really wanted one more," Gulvas said. "This really started last year, and those seniors set the bar for us. Next year, these guys better be here.

"We feel like we set the standard for Standish-Sterling football and got us on the map. We want people to know where we're from."

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More Robinson: Depending on what a review of game film determines his official rushing total to be, Chris Robinson needs about 200 yards in next week's state championship game to break the all-time state single-season rushing total of 2,890 yards, set by Chippewa Valley's Lomasny in 2000 in 13 games.

One of the players Robinson leapfrogged on Saturday was Whittemore-Prescott's Tom Tyson, who in 1994 set the record but has since seen it surpassed by nine players. Next year, as a four-year starter, he should also have a shot at the upper reaches of the MHSAA career-rushing list.

His five touchdowns pushed his season total to 40 on the year, putting him in a three-way tie for third on the all-time single-season list. He needs one against Oakridge to move into a tie for second place. The state record is 48; even Robinson can't score eight touchdowns in a state title game, can he?

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