Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 14, 2013

Dennis Chase: Kicker becomes unlikely hero

Sports editor

— Zach Gloshen might be the most popular guy on the west side of town today.

The Traverse City West junior kicked his first field goal of the season, a 21-yarder in overtime to give the Titans a hard-fought 17-14 win over crosstown rival Traverse City Central before a boisterous overflow crowd on a cool, crisp Friday night at Thirlby Field.

“I was really nervous about it,” Gloshen said.

He didn’t act it. Pressure? What pressure? Gloshen hit squarely and with authority.

Just like that he became the unlikely hero. After all, Gloshen came into the game with this stat line: one missed field goal attempt, one of two on extra points.

But he was clutch Friday — the 13th, no less.

It was only the second overtime game in the 17-year history of the showdown. And Gloshen’s kick marked West’s 100th win as a program.

You had a sense Gloshen might be called upon after West, which won the toss and deferred in overtime, pushed Central back to the 29 after a pair of sacks, forcing the Trojans to attempt a 46-yard field goal that went wide left. That meant all West had to do was avoid sacks or penalties and stay within Gloshen’s range. The Titans pounded the ball to the 4, got the ball in the middle of the field, and then turned to their kicker.

When the kick sailed over the upright, it set off a wild celebration on the West side and put the Titans in good position in the Big North Conference with victories over two good teams — Ogemaw Heights and Central.

Sure, there were miscues, missed opportunities — mistakes that can be corrected down the road — but this was still an entertaining, hard-fought high school clash that kept spectators in their seats. And on the edge of their seats at the end.

Traverse City Central coach Tom Passinault called it the best $5 ticket in town and I don’t think anyone would argue.

Both teams are still developing, perhaps the downside to playing this game this early in the season, but it certainly didn’t lack passion and excitement.

Central showed its big-play capability on offense, especially when it can spring Ethan Campbell into open space. West, after a slow start in the first quarter, countered with a strong power running game, mixed with the play action pass.

Despite that, the defenses held their ground when it counted. The West defense came up big late in regulation. After the Trojans marched from their 35 to the Titans 32 — with a first down and a couple minutes to play — the West defense shut Central down, forcing another long field goal attempt that fell just short. If Central had managed a couple more yards in that drive, it might have been the Trojans carrying the Nowak-Olson Memorial Trophy off the field again.

But the Titans defense did its job, then Gloshen did his, and in the end that was the difference.