Fenton — The first two times the Fenton varsity football team played Walled Lake Western in the playoffs, the Tigers lost by a combined score of 110-48, with both teams pretty much decided by halftime.
Friday night’s third playoff battle was a much different theme. However, the end result was the same.
The Tigers’ defense kept Walled Lake Western’s offense in check for most of the game, giving Fenton a reasonable puncher’s chance of earning their first-ever victory against the Warriors. However, Fenton made just enough mistakes and the Warriors made just enough big plays on offense to capture what was a 24-9 Division 2 playoff victory at Fenton High School Friday night.
Both teams had high and low moments with both offenses struggling against the other squad’s defense, keeping the score tight and the score relatively low the entire contest. However, Walled Lake Western was able to extend a 14-6 halftime score into a two-possession lead midway through the fourth quarter. A 39-yard completion from quarterback Sam Johnson to Abdur-Rahmaan Yassen set up a one-yard TD run by Johnson, raising Western’s lead to 21-9 with 8:35 left in the game.
Fenton’s offense tried to respond back, driving to the Western 35, but that’s where they faced a fourth-and-11 play. Fenton quarterback Logan Welch completed a pass to Spencer Rivera, but Rivera was unable to get the first down, giving Western the ball back with just 5:41 remaining in the contest. Fenton’s defense held Western to just 18 yards and a punt after that possession, but with just 3:12 left in the game and holding the ball at their own 14, the Tigers needed a small miracle to get back into the contest. That didn’t happen as Fenton turned the ball over on downs after a 14-yard sack on fourth down. Four plays later, Western’s Aiden Jennings kicked a 26-yard field goal, giving the Warriors a 24-9 lead with just 51.3 seconds remaining.
The Tigers ended their season at 7-3 overall.
“I’m proud of how everyone played and how we finished the season,” senior Parker Brady said. “Win or lose, we played hard and we played our heart out.”
“There were a whole lot of dogfights,” senior Lance Mercord said. “The people I play next to, they go balls to the wall 100 percent every play and it’s awesome.
“They made a few plays and they have some play makers, but a different couple calls here and there and we could’ve beat them. They are definitely a good team, but we came to fight and it was a good game.”
Fenton had a great chance to be the first team to score in the game. On its first possession, the Tigers punished Western’s defense with its strong run game. Fenton advanced the ball 86 yards on nine plays, moving the ball to the Western 2, facing a fourth-and-goal play. The Tigers went for the touchdown but failed to convert as Rivera’s run kept him one yard short of paydirt.
Western took over and ended up driving 98 yards on 15 plays for the first TD of the game on a two-yard TD scamper by Kevin Jackson. The drive was prolonged by two key plays. Fenton appeared to have stopped Western when the Warriors were facing a fourth-and-6 at Fenton’s 49. Instead, Western went for a fake punt and got the first down. Two plays later, Fenton’s Ryan Miller intercepted a ball, supposedly giving the Tigers possession, but a roughing the passer penalty enabled Western to keep the ball. After the TD Fenton trailed 7-0 with 51.2 seconds left in the first quarter.
Two possessions later, the Tigers put together their only touchdown drive of the game. Starting at its own 48, the Tigers took eight plays, scoring on Welch’s five-yard TD completion to Miller. However, the Tigers had the extra-point blocked, and still trailed 7-6 with 4:41 left in the half.
Western also scored on its next possession. A 27-yard completion on a third-and-10 play to Justin Gabriel helped set up a 28-yard screen pass completion TD to Jackson. Jennings made the extra point and the Tigers trailed 14-6 entering the half.
The Tigers had chances to close the gap or maybe even tie the game a couple of times before Western scored again.
Fenton took the opening possession of the second half to midfield and Welch’s punt was downed on the one-foot line. Three plays later, Fenton’s Steven Bloss intercepted a pass and gave the Tigers possession at the Western 15. However, on the ensuing play, Welch threw an interception in the end zone, giving Western the ball back.
Fenton eventually got the ball back and used its ground game and a Western facemask penalty to move the ball to the Warriors’ 16. That set up a 32-yard field goal by Braden Moore, who converted the kick. Just five seconds into the fourth quarter, Fenton trailed just 14-9.
However, Western responded with a 68-yard scoring drive, earning a TD on Johnson’s one-yard QB keeper. Fenton trailed 21-9 with 8:35 left and never got the deficit back to a one-possession situation.
“It was just those little things we didn’t do,” Fenton varsity football coach Jeff Setzke said. “We didn’t score when we went for it on fourth down. We left that off the board. Just the little things are big things in these games.
“You want to keep on playing, want to win on your own field and want an opportunity to play next week, but it wasn’t in the cards. I’m very proud of these kids.”
Fenton had 199 rushing yards with Rivera getting 164 of them on 21 carries. Welch completed 5-of-12 passes for 38 yards. Western finished with 148 yards on 35 carries on the ground. Johnson completed 9-of-17 passes for 175 and was picked off once.