By MIKE ECKERT
TRAVERSE CITY —
Ray Gidley started the party. Shane Pennington and Michael Stagg joined in while Tim Ohlert finished it.
All four starting defensive backs for the Traverse City Wolves came up with an interception Saturday as the Wolves picked up a 25-6 win over the Southeast Michigan Mercenaries at Thirlby Field.
“It’s awesome,” Gidley said. “It’s a great feeling that everyone knew what they had to do. We were 0-2 at home and we had to step it up. Not just me, everybody. We’ve got another home game coming up and we’re going to do the same thing.”
The Wolves also extended their winning streak to three games and at 4-2, moved into second place in the Great Midwest Football League’s Great Lakes Division.
All four interceptions came in the second half as the teams came out of the break tied at 6-6.
“We’ve struggled as a secondary in some of our other games,” Wolves coach Rick Micham said. “Early on we also had some issues with the offensive line because we had some injuries and were thin there. But tonight, our offensive line was top notch and our defensive backs got it done.”
Gidley’s interception was key, as he picked off a pass from Mercenaries quarterback Adrien Brown and flew down the visitor’s sideline 70 yards for a touchdown and a 12-6 Traverse City lead.
“I knew we were going to do a lot of Cover 3 because they’re a passing team,” Gidley said. “The past couple of games I was getting beat deep, so I knew I had to step up. It was just a matter of getting deeper and reading the quarterback the whole time.”
For the night, Gidley — a 2009 TC Central grad — had 12 tackles and broke up three passes.
Davonn Cooper returned from an injury in the first quarter to punch in a 7-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to make it 19-6 Wolves. Then with 96 seconds to go, quarterback Brian Mauer dropped a pass over the middle of the field to a wide open Justin Flowers, who flew 95 yards for a score and a 25-6 TC lead.
Mauer finished the game 9-for-9 passing for 192 yards.
“We wanted to get a look at (new quarterback Trevor Hunt), but this was a tough game and Mauer stayed healthy,” Micham said. “We just couldn’t take the momentum away from him. We didn’t want to take that chance.”
When Cooper left with an injury, Ohlert moved into the backfield at running back and led the way with 61 yards on 15 carries.
“He’s a player,” Micham said. “He’ll play until his heart quits. He’s a great special teams player returning the ball, he’s our lock-down cornerback on defense. And as you saw today, he can play just as good on offense and he got the job done for us.”
Jesse Kethman also had 31 yards on six carries, including an 8-yard run for a touchdown in the first quarter.
The Wolves will hit the road next weekend in a pivotal game for the conference standings. They’ll travel to the Lakeshore Cougars, who beat Traverse City 29-18 in the first game of the season. TC then returns home to play the undefeated Metro Detroit Wolverines.
“We had guys getting hurt and now everyone’s getting back to where we were in the beginning,” Gidley said. “Everyone’s coming to practice and we’re not giving up. We’re not the biggest, we’re not the strongest, but we never give up.”