By JAMES COOK firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Just moments after Zach Gloshen’s 21-yard field goal gave Traverse City West a 17-14 overtime victory over rival TC Central, Titan players posed for pictures with the Nowak-Olson Trophy.
“I don’t want to go home right now!” Titans defensive end Calvin Bouttavong loudly declared.
Bouttavong and the TC West defense had held Central’s explosive offense to just two touchdowns and were able to allow the Titans to overcome a three-turnover deficit.
“If you’re minus three (in turnovers), your chance of winning drops about 90 percent,” said West coach Tim Wooer, who did an excited celebratory run across the field and shoulder roll at the 40 after Gloshen’s kick sailed through the uprights. “Not many teams can overcome that. It really shows the heart our team has. We really grew up. I think Jeff Turnquist grew up as a quarterback. And again, our defense, a big compliment to Jason Morrow and Kelly Smith and Ryan Pfefferle. What a great defensive effort.”
West fumbled three times, with Central recovering each time. The Trojans didn’t turn the ball over, aside from three failed fourth-down conversions.
In overtime, West came up with a big pair of back-to-back sacks by Zac Schwert and Tyler Town to force the Trojans into a long 46-yard Jake Gorter field goal that was wide left.
“We’re still feeling our way around offensively,” Central coach Tom Passinault said. “We were able to hit some big plays, but we couldn’t sustain the ball when we needed to. You don’t want to play a power T team in overtime from the 10 yard line. The advantage is in their favor. We made a couple mistakes in our own overtime offense, took the sack and missed the field goal.”
“I feel bad for Jake Gorter,” Wooer said. “Jake is a heck of a kicker and a great young man. It’s unfortunate to see something like that happen to anyone. I told Tom it was too bad that any team had to lose that game. It was a clean game, there was no trash talk, no cheap shots. Just a great, great football game. My hat’s off to Central.”
Central had first-and-goal from the 8 when Schwert was able to get through to the Trojans’ Sean Williams for a 6-yard loss. Then Town caught Williams scrambling and without an open receiver and was able to bring down the quarterback for a huge 15-yard loss. In two plays Gorter went from having a potential 25-yard field goal turn into a 46-yard one.
“I don’t know how I got it,” the 250-pound Town said. “I got through the line and did everything I could to get to him. It was everything I had. He was walking right away from me. I don’t know how it happened.
“That really put them in the predicament to put some points on the board.”
“Their quarterback was scrambling, running for his life, and we got it,” Schwert said.
Central had a crack at the lead in the waning moments of regulation, but a 48-yarder by Gorter came up just short with 1:02 left.
“It’s a real heartbreaker,” Central linebacker Josiah Lopez-Wild said. “But it was a sound game. It was close. It was defensive. It was tough. I’m aching right now. That was a rough game. Their line deserves a a lot of credit.T hey deserve the hype they get. They’re big, they’re strong. I was impressed. I thought our guys did outstanding. I’m very proud of our guys. We came and we hit and we executed. It just didn’t go our away this time. I thought we did a great job.”
The Trojans tied the game at 14-14 with 6:33 remaining in regulation on Ethan Campbell’s 3-yard sweep left after a nice 15-yard catch by Rhys Adle.
West had taken the lead 14-7 on Max Ludka’s 1-yard touchdown plunge that capped off a 10-play, 80-yard drive with 2:53 left in the third.
Central scored first, as Campbell took a screen pass up the middle and was off to the races, scampering 77 yards to paydirt. Gorter’s extra point made it 7-0 with 5:56 left in the first half.
“That little screen, we really didn’t see it coming,” Town said. “Everybody read it wrong. It was a mess. We went on the sideline, did a couple corrections and got right after it.”
West responded with a grinding, 13-play drive to cover 80 yards, effectively using play-action passes as Turnquist was 3 for 4 passing — with each completion good for a first down.
“We knew we needed a drive to get it going,” Turnquist said. “We were on our own 20 and down (a touchdown). We knew we needed to get it going with passing, and we did. When they started (run blitzing), we hit them with play action.”
Ryan Schaub’s 3-yard run on third-and-2 and Grant Balino’s 3-yard run on third-and-3 from the 4 were the only third-down conversions West needed on the 13-play drive.
The crowd — estimated at 12,000 — didn’t suffer from the game being played at its earliest in the rivalry’s history.
“I’m just coming back from Petoskey and this win is just unreal,” West right guard Tommy Rousch said. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s amazing.”
West is off until next Saturday, when it hosts Petoskey (2-1) in a 1 p.m. tilt.
“I emailed Kerry VanOrman and said, ‘I’m not big on Saturday games, but after this buzzsaw we’ve been through from our scrimmage all the way to this game, it’ll be nice to have an extra day to rest and prep for a big conference showdown,’” said Wooer.
That game will be a homecoming of sorts for Rousch, who played for the Northmen last year before transferring back to Traverse City.
“That’s going to be an interesting game,” Rousch said. “They’re my old friends, but football is football. You’ve got to play as hard as you can.”