BEAVERTON – Through its first seven football games of the season, Oscoda really hadn’t seen much adversity. Friday night, playing a division seven district semi-final game at Beaverton, the Owls saw a heavy dose of adversity, but rolled with the punches as they gutted out a thrilling 33-27 playoff victory.
“That was a well-earned win,” head coach Mark Whitley said. “Beaverton is a great team and that was an unbelievable battle all night long, but I thought our kids were excellent. Our kids played well and they were the better team this night.”
The Owls and Beavers swapped leads all game, on a night defined by big plays and often times the bizarre.
Oscoda took the lead for good however, when Owen Franklin scored on a six-yard touchdown run, dragging a defender the final two yards on the play, giving them a 33-27 with 3:59 left on the clock.
From there, the Owl defense, led by back-to-back sacks by Gavin Lueck forced Beaverton to punt the ball away on what turned out to be its final possession of the night.
With the ball and just 2:31 remaining, Oscoda needed two first downs to ice the game. Franklin converted a third-and-one for the first and two plays later, he picked up the second, all-but ending the contest. Franklin took the snap, found room on the left side of the line to pick up the first down, but instead of running for extra yardage, he slid to end the play’ avoiding the risk of a fumble something else unforeseen.
“I bounced it out, I looked over and saw I had the first down and I figured if I got down the game was over, and that is what happened,” Franklin said. “It’s surreal, I mean I don’t want to say I didn’t expect it, but I didn’t know what it would feel like to win. It is just a rush of emotion for everyone and it is hard to contain yourself in a moment like this.
Thank you to everyone in the community for supporting us,” he added. “We love you guys and we will be back home next week.”
When the Oscoda offense needed plays late in the game, Whitley wasn’t surprised at all to see Franklin deliver.
“He said a couple weeks ago in a game, ‘we’re not playing here to lose, let’s play to win,’” Whitley said. “He will tell me to give him the ball and we will, and he will get six or seven yards a carry. He is smart too, we needed two first downs to win the game and he knew it. When got the second first down he slid and I just thought that was brilliant, staying in bounds and not taking a hit.”
While Franklin’s play set the tone for the offense late in the game, it was Lueck’s prowess on defense that set the stage on that side of the ball.
With Beaverton needing a score on its final drive, Lueck had other ideas, busting through the offensive line and chasing down talented Beaver quarterback Trent Reed, for two big losses.
“Lueck was phenomenal late in the game, he basically shut their offense down,” Whitley said. “He played a great game but midway through the fourth quarter I could tell he was starting to take the game over. I was surprise after the first sack that they ran it right back at him. He is a great football player and there are times you just can see it in his eyes.”
The win was certainly anything but easy for the Owls, who entered the game beating their opponents by an average of 49 points.
Oscoda opened the game with a five-yard touchdown run by Franklin, with Aiden Backstrom booting in the extra point for a 7-0 lead, less than five minutes in.
The Beavers answered with a pair of touchdown passes to pull ahead 14-7, the first of which a conventional 23-yard touchdown pass by Reed and the second in the form of a halfback pass from Cameron Mishler, back to Reed for a 19-yard score.
Oscoda was able to answer with a one-yard plunge by Franklin three minutes into the second quarter, knotting things back up at 14-all.
Late in the half, Oscoda threw an interception near the end-zone, allowing Beaverton to take over its ensuing drive on its own one-yard-line.
With under two minutes remaining in the half, the Beavers had hoped to run time off the clock before giving it back to the Owls, however on third down, the first bizarre sequence of the night occurred.
The Beaverton ball carrier coughed up the football, and it bounced into the endzone, which Carson Harger was able to jump on. Another Backstrom extra point made it 21-14 with 1:53 to play in the half.
The half wouldn’t end without the next out of the ordinary event, however. Deep in Oscoda territory, Reed threw an apparent touchdown pass as time expired. Reed however was ruled to have thrown the ball in front of the line of scrimmage, and was flagged for an illegal forward pass.
By rule, the half should have ended with the offensive penalty, despite this, the refs opted to give Beaverton an untimed down; much to the displeasure of the Oscoda faithful.
The Beavers cashed in on the extra chance, as Smith fired a 32-yard touchdown pass into the endzone, sending the game into the half deadlocked at 21-all.
The second half opened up with what turned out to be Beaverton’s final touchdown drive of the night, capping it off with a one-yard run-in by Reed. A missed extra point left Beaverton ahead 27-21, with 6:23 left to play in the third.
Oscoda answered less than two minutes later, when Franklin fired pass over the top to a wide-open Anthony Ward. Ward hauled the ball in a few steps ahead of his defender at the 10-yard line and sprinted the rest of the way in. A blocked extra point left the game tied at 27-all.
The high-scoring teams saw their offenses slow down on their next possessions trading their first punts of the night; that is until Franklin’s game-winning touchdown run with just under four minutes to play.
“We talked about how sometimes you have to ride the roller coaster in a football game,” Whitley said. “The game goes up, the game comes down but you have to fight through sudden change. We made some adjustments at half and I thought our defense really rose to the occasion again. They don’t like giving up yards or giving up points, but we were playing against a great quarterback and he put some balls on the spot where only his team could catch them, even though we were playing good defense; that’s just football. The fact that we played a great team, fought through adversity and won was just great.”
Franklin’s night ended by going 10-of-16 passing for 184 yards, one touchdown and one interception and he also rushed 28 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns. Zach Ouillette was a force on the ground as well, running 11 times for 67 yards. Drew Hess had three receptions for 59 yards, Ward had the 45-yard touchdown reception, Ouillette had three receptions for 44 yards and Brennon Mills, who played through an injury was able to make three receptions, one of which for a key first down in the second half, for 36 yards.
Franklin made the plays on defense as well, getting 10 tackles, Gavin Lueck had 5.5 tackles and two sacks, Kadon Schirmer had 5.5 tackles, Ouillette had five tackles, with Mills and Caleb Nagel making four tackles apiece.
Whitley also pointed out the strong play of his offensive line blocking with Schirmer, Chris Thompson, Ian Boboltz, Lueck and Trevor Miller and his fullback Nagel.
“They blocked tremendous all night long and we had some big holes late in the game and that was just awesome,” Whitley said.
Oscoda (8-0 overall) hosts Evart (6-2) on Friday for the division seven district championship. The Wildcats are coming off a 34-31 upset win over seventh ranked McBain last week.