By Travis Smola
The Vicksburg Bulldogs exacted revenge on archrival Three Rivers with a 30-20 win in front of a huge and fired-up crowd at home. They simultaneously shattered the Wildcats’ hope of holding a share of the Wolverine Conference title with Edwardsburg.
All season long, the team used pre-season predictions as bulletin board material to motivate them to a 7-2 record on the year. “We were picked seventh in the conference and that has been our theme all year,” Head Coach Tom Marchese said as players and fans wildly celebrated re-gaining the swine bone trophy. The Bulldogs got out to a fast start on a 12-play drive orchestrated by senior quarterback Garrett Ketelaar and capped off with a three-yard power touchdown run by Caleb Welch.
Joe Brady’s extra point bounced off the upright and the score was 6-0 early. On the next drive, Three Rivers got down to the Bulldog 26-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. On the next drive, Vicksburg used a combination of runs and short passes to again drive down the field before Ketelaar delivered a perfect 30-yard pass to a wide-open Tim Gearig for an easy touchdown.
Brady’s point after put Three Rivers in a 13-0 deficit early. “Our kids really wanted this game,” Marchese said. The Bulldogs’ use of a spread offense seemed to catch Three Rivers off guard. Ketelaar played a near perfect game in the first half, going 11 for 11 for 99 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t throw an incompletion until the third drive of the night.
He finished the night 14 of 18 for 137 yards. Marchese said Ketelaar has been gaining confidence in his passing with every game.
The Bulldog defense also played a fearsome game. Cole Mallery and Shane Earl were in the quarterback’s face all night. On the Wildcats’ second drive of the night, a group of Vicksburg defenders forced Three Rivers’ Jalen Heivilin to try to dump a pass to his running back in the middle.
But Josh Holmes put his hands up in front of the pass and deflected it into air where it was intercepted by DJ Bullock and taken 90 yards for the touchdown. It was Bullock’s second week in a row with a defensive score. Bullock also had a sack in the game.
Three Rivers responded with a 50-yard touchdown pass of their own to make things 20-7. With only 1:49 left before the half, Ketelaar drove the Bulldogs down the field again on a series of passes to Gearig and Trevor Pryson.
Brady ended the drive by making up for his extra point miss with a huge 46-yard field goal that just cleared the crossbar to make things 23-7 at the half.
Vicksburg increased the score to 30-7 after Welch rushed for his second touchdown of the night, a two yarder, with 20 seconds left in the third. Three Rivers scored a couple more touchdowns on a QB scramble and a 15-yard pass play after that, but the Bulldogs ran out the clock on the strength of Welch and Ketelaar’s ground game.
The win leaves both Vicksburg and Three Rivers with a record of 7-2. Edwardsburg again holds the Wolverine Conference title alone with an 8-1 record, their only loss coming against Three Rivers.