ONSTED, Mich. - Onsted and Blissfield came into last night's much anticipated matchup as very similar teams.
They both wore purple and yellow, and both were unbeaten and ranked in the state polls. But only one of the teams can outright win the Lenawee County Athletic Association championship - and it's looking like it might be Onsted.
The Wildcats clinched at least a share of the league title with a convincing 33-14 victory over the visiting Royals. A win next week over Dundee would give Onsted the title to itself.
"It would be huge for sure to get a win next week," said Carl Ream, who scored two touchdowns. "We don't want to split."
The Wildcats, ranked fourth in Division 5, clinched a berth in the playoffs with last night's win. They did it largely without their leading rusher Shane Wallace who sprained his ankle early in the game and did not return. Derek Shell picked up the slack, rushing 16 times for 84 yards and a touchdown. More importantly than Shell's 7-yard touchdown was the way he continually pounded the ball late in the second half. With his team in control of the game, the 220-pound full back wore down Blissfield's defense with powerful runs up the middle.
"He was pretty good when they got the lead," Blissfield coach Ron Estes said. "They went to him and he was tough to get the ball away from."
The Royals, ranked second in Division 6, fall to 5-1 and can clinch a playoff spot with their next win. It was Blissfield that struck first on a 30-yard touchdown reception from Eric Schmidt to Cody Raich with 6:25 in the first quarter. Schmidt rolled to his right on the play and threw down field to Dylan Esterline. The ball deflected off Esterline and into the hands of Raich who side stepped a defender at the 5 to score.
But the momentum shifted quickly when Ream returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to tie the score.
"That kickoff was huge," Onsted coach Dan Terryberry said. "We said that when two even teams are playing that our special teams had to be special."
Ream also scored on a 45-yard run in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats caught a break early in the second quarter, which led to a touchdown. A pass interference penalty in the end zone on fourth down extended a drive, when an incomplete pass would have ended it. Shell capitalized with a seven-yard score up the middle but the extra point was missed, making the score 13-7.
"He could be pulling a truck down the field and he'd be happy if you gave him the football," Terryberry said of his fullback.
Onsted rolled up 244 yards of rushing on 40 tries. Quarterback Jacob Cranson attempted just seven passes, completing three.
Blissfield was led in rushing by Cody Spotts who accounted for a touchdown and 60 yards on 13 attempts. Schmidt was 12 of 23 for 135 yards but threw two interceptions, including one that was picked off by Steven Fritz at Onsted's 3 with 58 seconds left in the first half.
"We would move it and then they'd have a penalty, and we had two picks," Estes said. "We were sloppy. Bottom line, we didn't play well."
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