By Mike Dunn
Special to the Record-Eagle
BEAL CITY — Johannesburg-Lewiston fell behind early Friday in its Division 8 regional championship at Beal City and was never able to climb out of the hole in a 49-16 loss to the unbeaten Aggies.
The Cardinals saw their season end with a 9-3 mark. Beal City (12-0) advances to face St. Ignace (12-0) in a much-anticipated semifinal clash next week.
Beal City scored on its first three possessions to lead 21-0 before 10 minutes had elapsed in the game. The Cardinals, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going offensively.
"We got off to a slow start," acknowledged Johannesburg coach John Bush. "It's a little different playing on the road (after hosting two playoff games). We may have been a bit nervous at the start. We weren't moving the ball early and they were. But give Beal City credit. They're a very good football team."
The Cardinals trailed 28-0 at the 8:17 mark of the second quarter and had only managed one first down to that point. Senior Dillon Kibby provided the Cards with a sudden, electrifying spark on the ensuing kickoff, however, motoring 96 yards to put his team on the scoreboard. It was the eighth return for a touchdown this season for the explosive Kibby.
Fullback Mitch Hardy's two-point conversion run made the score 28-8.
The Cardinals stiffened on defense after that, twice keeping Beal out of the end zone before the end of the half after the Aggies penetrated into the red zone. A sack of Beal quarterback Sam Shafer by Garrett Koronka and Brad Kussrow thwarted one drive and a deflected pass by rushing lineman Wyatt Pelton helped to stall the other drive.
Beal scored on its first three possessions of the second half, however, to force a running clock just after the start of the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals scored their second touchdown of the game in the final minutes with the reserves on the field for each team. Freshman fullback Nick May, who had 35 yards in four carries, tallied on a short plunge and reserve QB Coalton Huff bulled over for the conversion.
Through the first three quarters of play, the Cardinals were able to secure just two first downs. Their longest play from scrimmage was a 20-yard hook-up from Alex Payne to Kibby late in the first quarter.
Beal reached the end zone on methodical drives of 66, 57, 64 and 77 yards in the first half and 52, 80 and 79 yards in the second half. Six different players generated touchdowns for the Aggies with Shafer and Ty Rollin each scoring twice.
This is the second year in a row that Beal City has defeated Johannesburg in the playoffs.
In spite of the loss, Bush was pleased with his team's effort.
"After the slow start the kids picked it up and played hard to the end," he said. "Nobody quit. The seniors gave us great leadership all year long and they did the same thing tonight. They gave everything on every down of every game and they're the reason why we were here playing in this game tonight."