From staff reports
CADILLAC — Traverse City West nearly pulled out an “incredible” comeback win Friday night.
Down 26-21 with just over five minutes to play, the Titans marched nearly 87 yards to reach the Cadillac 3, but the Vikings held as time expired to remain unbeaten and clinch at least a share of the title in the Big North Conference.
“It went from being possibly one of the best, most incredible wins in my coaching career, to one of the toughest,” West coach Tim Wooer said. “It was a great high school football game.”
With the ball at the 3 with 10 seconds remaining, and no time outs, Titans quarterback Jeff Turnquist tried to run it in, but was denied by the Vikings defense.
Wooer said the Titans wanted to pass, but there was miscommunication.
With the win, Cadillac improved to 5-0 in the Big North while West dropped to 4-1.
The Titans had rallied earlier in the fourth quarter to take a 21-20 lead when Turnquist connected with Grant Balino on a five-yard scoring pass.
But that lead was short-lived. Just 11 seconds later, Vikings quarterback Jalen Brooks raced 80 yards for a touchdown to put the 7-0 Vikings back on top with 5:16 to go.
“Just when you think you’re in pretty good shape, they come out, set up quick, snap it quick, before our defense gets set, and Brooks takes it 80 yards,” Wooer said.
Up until that point, West had done an admirable job controlling the dangerous Brooks. He finished with 95 yards on 13 carries.
The Titans were able to keep the ball out of his hands with a time-consuming ground attack. But West was unable to take advantage of opportunities, especially in the first half, failing to convert on three fourth-and-short plays in Vikings territory.
West scored on its first possession,a nine-play drive that covered nearly 50 yards. Balino took it in from two yards.
Cadillac closed to within 7-6 with three seconds left in the half when Brooks went in from two.
West scored on its first possession of the second half on a five-yard run by Turnquist.
Cadillac responded with a Brooks two-yard run to make it 14-12. The Vikings then took their first lead on a 57-yard run by Tanner Derror.
That set the stage for an exciting finish.
West fell to 4-3 and will need to win out — against Gaylord and Allendale — to guarantee a playoff berth.
“It’s devastating now, but we’ll regroup,” Wooer said. “We’ve got great kids.”