CADILLAC — Jacob Morgan and Garett Schuler led Traverse City West in a boisterous rendition of the Titans fight song from the top of the fence in front of the West student section.
Cadillac was singing a different tune after suffering its first defeat, 21-7 to TC West in Friday’s Big North Conference football showdown at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cadillac.
A Vikings fan confronted TC West head coach Greg Vaughan from a distance on the field as he left the press box following an interview. The fan accused West of encouraging illegal blocks, which Vaughan denied and walked away.
“All you have to do is look at the film,” Cadillac head coach Cody Mallory said. “They watch their film. It was a cheap shot. And we saw the same thing on the film in the prior weeks, and it obviously hasn’t been addressed. ... It’s not safe football.”
Two Cadillac linemen left the physical game with leg injuries.
West was whistled for a chop block with 2:18 left in the third quarter, leading 14-7 at the time.
The play resulted in Cadillac four-year starter and captain Blake Swiger leaving the game and not returning.
A different West coach said the play was the result of a communication error on what was supposed to be a legal cut block between two offensive linemen. West received a 15-yard penalty for a chop block on the play.
Later, Cadillac senior lineman Nick Hale left the game with a right knee injury — the same knee he wore a brace on following a prior injury.
The rest of the game was largely good old smash-mouth football, with two ground-based offenses trading punches in hopes of staying undefeated.
“I think it was easily one of those games that could go either way,” Vaughan said. “I think both teams pretty much kept their composure. It was a kind of a backyard brawl between two teams and luckily we came out on the good side of things as far as we see it. But Cody has got an incredible team there that’s very tough, both offensively and defensively.”
West held a slim advantage in total yards, 284-252.
TC West (3-0, 1-0 Big North) plays rival Traverse City Central in the TC Patriot Game next Friday, while Cadillac (2-1, 0-1 BNC) travels to Alpena.
“It’s definitely a big week to prepare for,” West defensive lineman Kyle McCrumb said. “I’m excited. I think we’ll do pretty well.”
West hasn’t lost to Cadillac since 2014, and Friday’s contest was the first time the Vikings held the Titans under 40 points since 2016.
“It’s always good to go against another physical team,” McCrumb said. “I mean, it gets you going. It’s good stuff.”
Cadillac split up ball carrying duties between four backs, with Aden Gurden picking up 66 yards, Carter Harsh 50, Collin Johnston 47 and Kaleb McKinley 40. Gurden also completed 3-of-8 passes for 52 yards.
“We’re going to pass when it’s advantageous,” Mallory said. “And they gave us some stuff where we could. But really that’s the type of game you expect, in that it’s going to be a fist fight. They play hard; our guys play hard. They’re gritty; we’re gritty.”
Michael Schermerhorn, Aiden Kamp and Brandon Konchek carried the load for West, with Schermerhorn gaining 62 yards and scoring two touchdowns, Konchek gaining 65 and Kamp adding 61 yards and a TD.
Konchek also completed 6-of-12 passes for 60 yards, including a big 30-yard completion to Schuler along the sideline to set up Schermerhorn’s 7-yard TD run that put the Titans in control with 4:23 remaining.
“I had to focus on making a catch, and made it,” said Schuler, who also recovered a fumble in the first half. “We got to get field position and we took advantage of it.”
Schermerhorn opened up the scoring with a 2-yard TD run early in the second quarter, also kicking the extra point for a 7-0 lead. The scoreless first quarter featured only four passing attempts between the two teams.
“That’s how we do it, pound it,” McCrumb said. “Yard by yard.”
Cadillac’s best first-half opportunity came when the Vikings drove to the West 5-yard line before a block in the back penalty and a Morgan tackle for loss set up a 35-yard field goal attempt that Carson Douglass blocked for his third blocked kick in the last two weeks.
Douglass later almost blocked a punt that ended up going just 8 yards.
“Not happy with how we responded,” Mallory said. “We really did things that lose games against good teams, and that’s penalties, turnovers and just blown assignments. It’s a measuring stick and and whether it’s a win or loss in this one, it doesn’t define our season. We’ve got bigger goals and this is just another step in our maturation. It hurts and it should hurt. But we’re going to get back to work and get better because of it.”
West took a 14-0 lead on Kamp’s 28-yard TD run, exploding up the left side and finding daylight after bouncing off a defender.
Cadillac responded to that drive by going 62 yards in eight plays, culminated by Harsh’s 5-yard toss sweep. Caden Windover hit the extra point to cut West’s lead in half, 14-7.
Matt Zoutendam and Ben Schollett each recorded 12 tackles for West, while Schermerhorn chipped in nine, Remington Schulz eight and Morgan seven.
Derek Rood led Cadillac with 11 tackles, with Keenan Marr adding eight and Jay Gulish, Chris Reinhold, Johnston, Teegan Baker and Keenan Suminski a half dozen each.
“We played super hard and we kept fighting every single play,” Schuler said. “We just never gave up. We played like it was 0-0 the whole game.”