Cardinals need one more win to qualify for playoffs

The Onaway High School varsity football team lost to visiting Johannesburg-Lewiston last Friday, 56-14, to fall to 5-2 on the season. The loss set up a huge game tonight (Friday) at Central Lake. OHS needs one more win to qualify for the playoffs. Ten days ago, Central Lake thought it was out of the playoff picture, but everything changed when Atlanta, having used an ineligible player, was forced to forfeit its victory over the Trojans.

The forfeit made Central Lake 3-3 instead of 2-4, and the Trojans responded with a convincing win over Forest Area to improve to 4-3. Central Lake’s final game is against winless Rudyard.

A win against Onaway, therefore, likely gets Central Lake into the postseason. Onaway, meanwhile, plays its final game October 19 against Pickford, which is 5-2 and likely headed to the playoffs itself (it plays Rudyard tonight).

If the Cards fall to the Trojans, they’ll need to defeat the Panthers (an honorable mention in the latest Division 8 poll) to qualify. A win against Central Lake would eliminate that pressure. To get that win, OHS will have to play much better than it did against Joburg, particularly on defense. Joburg ran through the OHS defense all game, also benefitting from a few calls by the officials.

Dillon Kirby, in particular, hurt Onaway. Kirby ran for 167 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and also scored on a reception, a kickoff return and an interception return. Mitch Hardy had 21 carries for 163 yards and two TDs.

Chae Whitsitt and Matt Tollini both ran for 92 yards and a touchdown for Onaway. Tollini also passed for 101 yards. Justin Gedda had 34 receiving yards, Jason Sigsy had 26, and Tommy Auger had 25.

Joburg scored first, after blocking an OHS punt on the opening possession. Hardy ran the ball in from 13 yards to make the score 6-0, which is how the first quarter ended.

J-L quarterback Alex Payne stretched the lead to 12-0 when he charged in from two yards out with 7:09 left in quarter two. It looked like the half would end with that score, but things got bad for the home team.

First, Payne scored from nine yards out, throwing to Hardy on the conversion, to make the score 20-0 with 1:11 left. Then the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs, after the officials missed third down and went from second to fourth.

That mistake left enough time on the clock for Payne to find Kirby on a 17-yard TD strike with 11 ticks remaining. Payne ran in the conversion and Joburg led 28-0 at the half.

Hardy scored on a four-yard TD run to open the third quarter. Kirby ran in the conversion and J-L led 36-0. Whitsitt then scored on a 65-yard TD run, and Tollini ran in the conversion, cutting the lead to 36-8 with 7:15 left in the third.

The Cards were successful on a pop-up onside kick, with Gedda fielding the ball in the air. The officials awarded the ball to Onaway and the OHS offense took the field. That was followed by a flag and a call that OHS interfered with the J-L attempt to field the kick.

Instead of having possession with a chance to make things interesting, the Cards were backed up 15 yards and had to kick again. This time, Kirby fielded a deep kickoff and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown.

That made the score 42-8. Kirby then ended Onaway’s next possession by picking off a pass deep in J-L territory and returning it 90 yards for a touchdown, stretching the lead to 48-8.

Tollini scored on a 96-yard run on the Cards’ next offensive play, but on the first play of the fourth quarter Kirby ran the ball in from nine yards out, completing the scoring.

Joburg can clinch a playoff berth with a win tonight (Friday) over winless Gaylord St. Mary. Onaway’s road to the postseason is considerably tougher, and it begins tonight at Central Lake. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.