TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Central guaranteed itself a winning season Friday night.
The Trojans, though, have a loftier goal in mind now — a playoff berth.
Central, 5-3, hosts Cadillac next Friday with a chance to punch its ticket into the post-season. That was made possible with a 28-20 Big North Conference win over Ogemaw Heights in the rain at Thirlby Field.
“What you want to do is make every game count and now we go into the final week and face an undefeated Cadillac team,” Central coach Tom Passinault said. “What a great way to end the (regular season) for our kids — with a chance to go to the playoffs.”
Ethan Campbell scored twice in the fourth quarter to help the Trojans subdue Ogemaw Heights. Campbell had a 51-yard run that setup a seven-yard scoring jaunt on his next carry, giving the Trojans a 21-7 lead with 9:11 left.
He then bolted 52 yards for a touchdown with 1:27 remaining after the Falcons had closed to within a score at 21-14.
Campbell, who had 27 yards rushing at half, finished with 180.
“I wasn’t reading the right holes. I wasn’t running to the right place,” he said of his first-half performance. “It clicked (in the second half).”
The Trojans, 3-2 in the Big North, never trailed, although the Falcons kept it interesting.
Central capitalized on a Falcon turnover in the first quarter to score the game’s only touchdown in the first half. Anthony Kratovil recovered a fumble at the 18 and two plays later Trojan quarterback Sean Williams scampered 17 yards for a touchdown.
Central’s defense, after allowing 51 yards on Ogemaw’s first drive, hunkered down and limited the Falcons to 59 yards the rest of the half.
The Trojans took a 14-0 lead when Drew Girard-Pampu went in from two yards out on the first possession of the second half. Ogemaw Heights only ran seven plays from scrimmage in the third quarter, but one was a 57-yard touchdown pass from Ben Hartley to Josh Awrey, cutting Central’s lead to 14-7.
Campbell scored his two touchdowns in the fourth — and it turned out Central needed both.
The Falcons marched 93 yards for a touchdown — Hartley took it in from three yards - to make it 21-14 with 1:39 left.
Twelve second later, Campbell found a seam and bolted 52 yards as Central regained a two-touchdown advantage.
Ogemaw Heights scored on the final play of the game, a 12-yard Hartley to Devin Griffus pass.
“Ogemaw’s a good offensive team,” Passinault said. “They run their scheme. They’ve got a quarterback (Hartley) and a running back (Awrey) who are very good. We were fortunate to have Ethan Campbell pop a couple runs that cemented it for us.”
The Falcons finished with 333 yards in offense, 205 coming through the air.
“All week in practice we talked about how good an offensive team (Ogemaw is) and how it was going to be challenge for our defense,” said Rhys Adle, who spearheaded the Trojan defense from his linebacking spiot. “We were pretty sure our offense could get down and score. The challenge was on defense. We played physical and that was the key.”
Now the stage is set for next week.
“You make the postseason and anything can happen,” Adle said. “That’s what we’re going for. One more win and that will be a good season for us.”
The Trojans have won two in a row after a setback at Petoskey.
“A couple weeks back we knew we could not win the league anymore,” Passinault said. “We focused on a three-game season to make the playoffs. We’ve got two of them — and a big one next week.”