By Travis Smola
The Vicksburg varsity football team finished up its regular season with a 31-16 victory over Three Rivers on its home field to finish with a 7-2 record.
Three Rivers struggled a bit down the stretch this year and the final score wasn’t quite indicative of how close the game was. “You throw the records out,” head coach Tom Marchese said.
The Bulldogs had already earned a playoff spot the week prior, but the team didn’t sit back and rest. “They look forward to this game ever year,” Marchese said. “They fought to the end.”
Senior running back Nick Wallace led the way for the Bulldog offense with a 168-yard rushing performance after missing the previous week’s game due to illness. Junior quarterback Brenden Lovell ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, a 77-yard play action bomb to junior receiver Blake Rankin in the first quarter. Rankin also had an interception to stop a Wildcat drive in the second quarter. Freshman kicker Joe Brady contributed a 29-yard field goal.
The week prior, the Bulldogs earned a playoff spot in a back-and-forth contest on the road. After Seth Benson scored a touchdown early, South Haven racked up 16 unanswered points. Some younger players like sophomore quarterback Garrett Ketelaar stepped things up. He broke a 45-yard rushing touchdown right through a big group of South Haven defenders in the second quarter.
With the third quarter coming to a close, the Rams made things interesting by cutting Vicksburg’s lead to 28-24. But the Bulldog defense stepped up and kept South Haven off the scoreboard the remainder of the night. Senior defensive lineman Michael Ward was one standout, getting in the thick of things several times to help stop drives short.
On October 9, the Bulldogs dressed in black uniforms and delivered a near-blackout 57-16 win over a struggling Paw Paw. The victory saw many contributions by the usual scorers, but also saw a few others get in on the action. Senior Gary Corsaut caught an eight-yard Lovell pass in the third quarter and senior Jacob Root had a 10-yard touchdown run for the Bulldogs final points of the night.
In the first game of October, the Bulldogs rolled Otsego 50-14 in a game that was never in question. Vicksburg’s defense stopped Otsego’s offense again and again. Linebacker Adam Grabowski had a fumble recovery and defensive back Tanner Mendham had some key pass defenses. Linebacker Caleb Kropp put the exclamation point on the Bulldog’s defense effort when he ripped the ball right out of an Otsego runner’s hands and returned it for a long run for a touchdown.
In the last week of September, Sturgis became the only team to hold the Vicksburg offense to a score in the single digits as they pulled off a come-from-behind victory to beat the Bulldogs 12-8 during homecoming. Deondre Lovell was the lone Bulldog to score on an 18-yard precision pass reception from Brenden Lovell. The Bulldogs kept the lead at 8-6 through the half. That was until a botched punt resulted in Sturgis taking over at the Vicksburg 19. They scored four plays later and Vicksburg never recovered.
Coach Marchese praised all his players over the course of the year after the Three Rivers game. “We really played like a team this year,” he said.