BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — Ogemaw Heights made a statement.
That statement was that the Big North Conference better look out for the so-called little guys.
The Falcons ran roughshod on Traverse City West's defense, rolling up 538 yards of offense and scoring on eight of 10 drives in an impressive 56-39 victory over the Titans that prevented West from clinching a playoff spot.
"We've had a lot of people tell us we can't compete," Ogemaw coach Andrew Pratley said. "We've only got 750 kids and we're in Division 4 and we can't compete with these guys. It sure feels nice tonight."
The win improves the playoff hopes for Ogemaw Heights (5-3, 3-2), while it stalls the Titans' (5-3, 4-2) for a Division 1 spot at least a week.
"We couldn't get a stop," West coach Tim Wooer said. "It was an embarrassment. I love all the kids in our program and I feel bad for them, but we've all got to look at each other and say that was embarrassing. If we don't change next week, there won't be any playoffs. If we play like that, we're 5-4 and our season is over."
Talking to his team right after the game's conclusion, Pratley said, "We're not done yet. Next week we can meet our playoff goal and get second place in this league we can't play in."
Ogemaw scored all five times it touched the ball in the second half — aside from kneeling on the ball for the final 35 seconds — as the teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards of total offense.
"I told our kids it was disappointing, obviously," Wooer said. "Very humbling. A lot of credit goes to Ogemaw Heights. They really executed on offense. Obviously we didn't play very well on defense when we give up 56 points, but they were crisp."
Led by Brandon Benac's three touchdowns, Ogemaw racked up 538 yards of total offense to West's 431.
A bright spot for West was the passing of Donny Cizek, who completed 12 of 21 attempts for 277 yards. Griffin Forrester accounted for 169 yards of total offense — including 110 through the air — and scored three touchdowns.
West's first drive was impressive, as the Titans went 58 yards in four plays for a 46-yard pass from Cizek to Forrester down the right sideline. That tied it up at 7-7, matching Ogemaw's 11-play scoring drive to open up the game.
Benac's 30-yard run up the left sideline put Ogemaw up 14-7 with 9:28 left in the second quarter, and the Falcons would never trail again.
Forrest Eagle's 1-yard plunge cut Ogemaw Heights' lead to 21-14 with 1:06 remaining before halftime, and the Titans had a long field goal blocked just before the homecoming intermission.
The Falcons' first-half drives went 11, 11, eight and eight plays before a three-and-out in which quarterback Ben Hartley inexplicably spiked the ball on third down.
West's opening drive of the second half covered 77 yards over nine plays, but Hartley's big hit jarred the ball loose on a pass to Octavian Waugh in the end zone that would have knotted up the game. Instead, West settled for a 23-yard Zach Gloshen field goal and four-point deficit, 21-17.
"Our defense played well — kept us in the game and allowed our offense to get back on the field," Pratley said. "Holding them to that field goal to start the second half was huge. But our offense really clicked on all cylinders tonight."
Five plays later, the Falcons were back in the end zone on a spectacular Benac 18-yard run in which West had the senior bottled on a sweep left, but he reversed field and cut up the middle for a 28-17 lead.
Ogemaw — which runs a veer offense variation that frequently has two quarterbacks in the backfield, both acting as if they'll receive the snap — added an 85-yard pass from Hartley to Devin Griffus over the middle to go up 35-17 before West answered with a 62-yard pass from Cizek to Waugh.
The Falcons' Tommy Dematio came right back with a 10-yard TD run for a 42-24 lead with 8:52 left in the game.
Cizek hit Forrester for a 20-yard screen pass to cut it to 42-32 with 6:42 left, but once again Ogemaw's offense couldn't be stopped and the Falcons were in the end zone five plays later on a Benac 40-yard run on fourth-and-2.
After an interception — the only turnover of the game — Ogemaw broke the 50-point mark on a Josh Awrey 18-yard touchdown run up the middle to lead 56-32. West added a 16-yard TD run by Forrester with 35 seconds remaining or the final score.
"Last year, we did not play well — certainly not against West," Pratley said. "We came back with a mission this year to make a statement. We didn't play well against Petoskey early and I thought we really gave Central a battle but we had turnovers at the end. Our kids came out and played four quarters of our brand of football."
"We've got two talented quarterbacks and some talented kids on the outside," Pratley said. "We've got a lot of young kids and we keep getting better each week."
West's Derrick Diver had 16 tackles, Collin Bush 12, Chris Doherty nine and Dustin Tucker and Tyler Johnson eight each.
The Titans now have to win next Friday against 3-5 Adrian in order to qualify for the playoffs.
"It's a one-game season now," Wooer said. "We've got to beat Adrian to get into the playoffs. Realistically, I told the kids that there's probably not much difference between a three and a four seed in the playoffs, but it's all about pride to me. We lost and still have a chance to get into the playoffs, but it was an embarrassment. I feel bad for our West family and our student section. It was homecoming and they've been very supportive — and we didn't hold up our end of the bargain."