Prudenville Pirates Prevail over the Burly Rosco Bucks
By Clint Kern
ROSCOMMON – The Houghton Lake versus Roscommon alumni football battle, not only created great hype and entertainment, it raised large amounts of money for the school programs. To top it all off, the game was ultra fluid, crisp, intense and wildly physical. Mike Collins said it was a little redemption from losing at Roscommon in his last game in 2006 in the playoffs to the Bucks. Houghton Lake emerged the victor, in an epic donnybrook, 15-13.
Roscommon kicked off and quickly pounced on the Bobcat return man. Houghton Lake floundered with a quick three and out, as the Rosco rowdies erupted to applaud their ferocious defense. Roscommon legendary bruiser, former Eastern Michigan starting linebacker, Steve Bednarik was crush flexing on Bobcats.
Roscommon looked like they’d have to boot the pigskin right back, then Mark Huntley, who replaced Roscommon’s starting quarterback, Justin Mann, took command under center, dropped back, planted and lofted a pass down the sideline to his brother, Matt Huntley, who had beaten his man. Matt, halted, came back to the ball, maintained his focus, rose up and wrestled the ball away from the Houghton Lake defensive back for the 34 yard completion.
Huntley then handed off to former stalwart RHS tail-back from the class of 2006, Tommy Catrell, who patiently followed his lineman to the left, which created some creases. Catrell pumped and spun his legs for a 16 yard gain down to the five yardline and another first down.
Matt Fuller dropped a Rosco rusher on the next play right in his tracks and this seemed to halt the Buck’s momentum. The Cat’s stiffened their back-bones and surged lower, thwarting Roscommon on the next three downs from scrimmage. This vital goal-line stand proved to be one of the more crucial series of the ball-game, it sent tidal waves of jubilation along the Houghton Laker’s bleachers and reversed possession and momentum for sure.
Again the Bobcats failed to muster much of an offensive and they punted. The Huntleys, Catrells, Jernigans and the rest of the Bucks matriculated the leather back down the tundra and it appeared that the St. Helen boys were in the red-zone for a good scoring opportunity.
On the ensuing play from scrimmage, Huntley did a three-step drop and tried firing a 10 yard slant to a knifing receiver, Houghton Lake’s safety, sure-handed Mike Collins instinctively decoded Huntley’s eyes, jumped the lane and intercepted the pass. This was colossal because this extinguished another solid Rosco drive deep in Bobcat territory.
A couple plays later, sturdy, powerfully accurate armed HL quarterback, Piersen Forbes zipped a dime to Mike Collins for a 14 yard strike. “We all had some concern whether we could still play well. On the fourth play in practice, Piersen looked over at me, whistled, I head nodded, I got goosebumps, I knew we still had it. It was like a family atmosphere, it was just a great event for the county. The interception meant the most to me, to stop them and lead us to the initial score,” remarked HL’s Mike Collins.
Next, Devin Blanchard flared out to the left and caught a screen pass which collected another 17 yards for the Catmen. Forbes stayed in a groove when he slung a slant to former all-state basketball and big play wide receiver, Eric Spearman for eight more yards. Then Devin Blanchard gashed the Buck defenders for another significant gain on the ground.
Forbes then zipped a curl route to Billee Banks for about 11 yards. Then once again out of the shot-gun Forbes dialed his own number as he burst off tackle and plunged across the goal-line to pay-dirt. Collins blasted the P.A.T. Kick splitting the uprights to grant the Houghton Lakers a 7-0 lead.
Roscommon sputtered once again, not obtaining any wiggle room from the smothering Bobcat defensemen. Rosco punted. Forbes handed off to Devin Blanchard again and he scampered for 18 more yards. Forbes rifled a Winchester short magnum bullet to Banks to move the chains again. The Cats fumbled the next play and Rosco recovered.
This was the spark the Bucks needed. Mark Huntley spiraled a seed to Matt Huntley for 12 yards. Houghton Lake’s Matt Grundas busted through the line and drilled a Buck ball-carrier for a big loss. Then Huntley dropped back and launched a spiral which hung in the air precisely to allow Mike Walker to run under, make a cut as he caught the pass and galloped into the end-zone to electrify the Roscommon faithful. The Bucks booted in the extra point kick and the score was all knotted up at the intermission, 7-7.
Roscommon came out like gang busters to ignite the third stanza action. Huntley threw a dart to Lorenz to amass 11 yards. Rosco’s #22, Paul Kalka, found a seam and exploded down the right sidelines for a 43 yard run down deep into HL territory. Tommy Catrell barreled his way in for the touchdown rumble to make it a 13-7 game. The two point conversion was no good, 13-7 RHS led.
The Bobcats were forced to punt the ball right back. Catrell rolled for 12 more yards. Then Kurt and Matt Boals doubled up to pummel a Buck. Devin, Damon and David Blanchard all rocked some Buckmen with ferocity. Catrell continued to chalk up yardage. Rosco executed a quick pass for another 1st down. HL’s Coach John Fuller came out to discuss the spotting of the ball and some other issues. He obviously didn’t agree with the officials responses, he then raged, turned around and whipped his play-chart clipboard. This displayed his passion for the rivalry, the game and the moment. This seemed to fire up the HL crowd and team.
A couple plays later there were a couple skirmishes between the two squads as things were getting a bit chippy. The interior Houghton Lake defensive lineman swarmed for a sack and at the end of the third quarter, Rosco clung to a 13-7 lead.
Huntley spiraled a pass to Walker for 18 yards. Then on fourth and about five, Billee Banks sniffed out the Rosco deployment and ambushed the screen play for a short loss, which turned the ball over on downs back to the Bobcats. “During the practices you could tell everyone was excited just to be around football again, everyone was trying to hit each other the first day of pads. Before the game started it had the same type of excitement and build up for a typical HL versus Roscommon rivalry game. It was all anyone could talk about around town the week leading up to the game,” noted HL’s Billee Banks. “You could tell everyone was giving everything they had. Every tackle was made with a little extra pop to it. It was probably one of the hardest hitting games I’ve ever played in.”
A couple plays later, Forbes gunned a go or fly route to fleet footed Mike Collins who chased the ball down, made the reception and exploded to the end-zone for the 75 yard touchdown pass. The Cats converted the two-pointer to reclaim the lead, up 15-13. “We had run some other pass plays to set this one up and we had talked of wanting to save this pass for a time when we desperately needed a quick strike. I reminded Piersen to pump-fake and he did perfectly, the isolation allowed Mike to blow by single coverage. Forbes hung the ball up there precisely and Collins ran it down and scored, the boys executed tremendously,” commented HL’s Coach John Fuller.
The Blanchard brothers grinded out chunks of yardage on the ground to critically eat the clock and move the chains. Forbes 4th down pass down in Rosco territory was incomplete, granting the ball back to the Bucks. Catrell burst for 11 yards. Then HL swarmed for some gang tackles. With the time ticking away, RHS tried a halfback toss pass. Banks intercepted, but started to juggle the ball as he was being tackled, Spearman had the presence of mind to snatch up the ball and run out of bounds. HL took a knee and they had obtained the triumph, 15-13.
“Initially it took a little while to get the word out and once guys started signing up, we were collecting great talent. The guys who signed up were football guys, they picked up fast at practice, they were coaching each other up. I put in a trap play and they ran it flawlessly. These guys were so enthusiastic, many took the week off and practiced so hard. This was a very rewarding week, this turned out to be a beautiful thing,” replied HL’s Coach Fuller.
Coach Fuller wanted to commend his offensive line for playing like warriors: Left Tackle- Thomas Jagada, Left Guard- Colin Quiney, Center- Broderick Abel, Right Guard- Jeremy Wagner and Right Tackler Thomas Ryzki. Coach Fuller said his son Matt had injured his hand, but he didn’t come out of the game. Matt went to the hospital the next day and found he had broke his hand in three spots.
“I was especially impressed with QB Mark Huntley who stepped in after Justin Mann injured his hamstring. Huntley made plays and took a beating. His courage and ability to step up when called upon is what we try to instill in our current players. I was very impressed with the overall play. I think it speaks volumes to the work of the previous coaching staffs and the level of commitment those men had out there Saturday,” said Roscommon’s Joe Holloway. “I think many of our fans came out for the novelty of the event and it turned out to be an outstanding game. I’d like to thank both communities for coming together for this event, a special thanks to the Roscommon Mom’s Club for their hard work planning the evening.”
“Bar none, it was the hardest hitting game I’ve ever played in. The game rekindled team spirit and pride. We pushed through fatigue and left it all on the field. It was an incredible sensation to have something you had loved, a feeling nearly forgotten. For a moment during the national anthem, I half expected to wake up, it was surreal. It’s great to raise money and to get a chance to play again. There was a sense of mutual respect on the field, people were laughing when they got up from good hits and shaking hands, the game brought us all closer together. My old college room-mate Mike Collins and I used to debate who’d win if we’d ever play again,” stated Roscommon’s Tommy Catrell.
“My oldest daughter said to me after the game, you are my favorite player dad. As a father to have the chance to play a game with meaning and dedication in front of your kids means a lifetime,” expressed Rosco’s Mark Huntley.