TRAVERSE CITY — Cadillac coach Jim Webb was not surprised.
He’s seen it all before.
Quarterback Jalen Brooks scored on a 68-yard keeper with 8:27 remaining Friday night at Thirlby Field to give Cadillac a hard-fought 14-7 Big North Conference win over Traverse City Central.
The win capped a perfect regular season for the 9-0 Vikings and clinched the league football title outright.
“Jalen Brooks when we needed him, once again, came through with a big run,” Webb said.
Brooks broke an 80-yard run for the winning touchdown in a 26-21 triumph over Traverse City West earlier this month.
His run Friday night, came two plays after Central’s Ethan Campbell busted a 14-yard run that gave the Trojans a 7-6 lead, following a Jacob Gorter extra point.
That lead, though, only last 53 seconds.
“We finally got Ethan loose,” Central coach Tom Passinault said. “He’s a heckuva back. That was a nice run for a touchdown — a lot of excitement. But Brooks put that to rest in a hurry.”
The loss was a difficult one for the 5-4 Trojans, who needed a win to secure a playoff spot.
“It’s hard to watch the seniors walk away after the last game knowing we were that close,” Passinault said. “But that’s been the story of our season. We had some close games that could have gone our way and didn’t. But I’m proud of our kids. The effort was outstanding.”
Webb expected to see that type of effort from the Trojans.
“This was basically a playoff game for them, so we knew they were going to come out high energy,” he said. “We knew we were going to see the (Central) team that played West tough (overtime loss). We were lucky to slide by West. We knew it was going to be a battle.”
Central had the first scoring opportunity in the game, reaching the Cadillac 9 before turning it over on downs late in the first quarter.
“We were 4th and 3 and I thought they (Vikings) were going to score a lot of points at that time, at least enough that we had to go (for it),” Passinault said.
Cadillac took over and went on a 19-play drive that concluded with a 14-yard Brooks to Logan Webb scoring pass, giving the Vikings a 6-0 lead.
Cadillac nearly scored on its next possession in the closing seconds of the first half, but Brooks was stopped on a 4th and 1 from the Central 1.
Central ran just four plays from scrimmage in the second quarter, eight in the third. Cadillac controlled the ball and the clock. Penalties hurt the Trojans, too.
“Field position and penalties,” Passinault said. “It seemed like every time I turned my head there was a hanky on the ground. We needed to play more disciplined football. It seems by week nine we shouldn’t have that amount of penalties. It hurt us offensively. Our defense gave us a chance to win.”
Central’s lone touchdown drive covered 74 yards and featured a 28-yard Sean Williams to Zach Egbert pass play. Campbell broke off runs of 11 and 14 yards to finish it.
Then Brooks took over.
“He’s Cadillac’s all-time leading rusher,” Webb said. “He beat Norm Smith’s record from back in 1973. He’s a special athlete. He gives a lot of credit to his linemen, to his backs and to his receivers, but he makes plays.”
Brooks rushed for 134 yards and passed for 63.
“We contained Brooks, but he’s a heckuva player,” Passinault said. “We congratulate Cadillac and their coaches and wish them luck in the playoffs. They have a team that can go a long ways.”
The Vikings finished 6-0 in the league, the Trojans 3-3.
“We wanted to be 9-0,” Webb said. “It’s a hard thing to do. We wanted to own the outright championship. Obviously, the playoff (spot) we had secured, but we don’t mind getting the points either.”