MARQUETTE — When this year’s Suttons Bay senior class were freshmen, their football season ended far too early.
Canceled two games in because of low numbers compounded by injuries, the season came to a screeching halt.
Three years later, they played as long as possible.
In the process, the Norsemen made Colon keep its starters in for the whole game for the first time this season.
The Magi, who came into the game outscoring opponents 605-58 and had only surrendered points with their backup defenders on the field, were forced to go the distance this time around, earning a 26-14 Division 1 eight-player football state championship Saturday at the Superior Dome in Marquette.
The Magi won the school’s first football state championship in the program’s 93rd year, topping Suttons Bay 26-14 in a tightly-contested game that was the toughest test Colon faced all season.
Colon head coach Robbie Hattan said Magi players were ready to go the distance, despite not having done that this season as they’ve won every other game in a blowout. They claimed every regular-season game by at least 34 points, and had outscored playoff opposition — including two of the other top contenders in Martin and Morrice — by a 125-32 margin.
“These kids put in all the work ... we condition so much,” Hattan said. “During camp we have different military branches come in to push our kids. We had the Navy SEALs, we had the Army Rangers, we had the Air Force Special Ops, and these kids were putting in work. We figured out we ran like 168 miles this season.”
Magi players arrived in Marquette on Thursday night, and took in some U.P. sights Friday, including a team curling event.
Colon went from curling Friday to hoisting Saturday.
Suttons Bay (12-1) and Colon (13-0) were tied up 14-14 late in the third quarter, despite the Norsemen dealing with a rash of injuries.
Quarterback Bryce Opie departed for several plays after taking a big hit to the ribs, running back Lucas Mikesell sat out much of a drive with an asthma attack, and receiver Hugh Periard left with a possible concussion in the third quarter and didn’t return.
“Before this game I said ‘All I ask is an empty tank at the end of the game, give it all you got,’” Suttons Bay head coach Garrick Opie said. “And they did. They did great. That is more rewarding than any medal or trophy. We get to watch kids put it all out there and exhaust themselves. I think that brings out a really deep portion of their heart and soul for the rest of their life.”
Suttons Bay, playing in the program’s first state championship since 2004, ran a GoFundMe to help with travel expenses. It raised $6,450 as of Wednesday night, surpassing its goal of $4,500.
Brandon Crawford put Colon up 7-0 on a 24-yard run with 1:50 left in the first quarter.
Suttons Bay answered several drives later on a Mikesell 23-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone from Opie.
Crawford made it 14-6 in the third quarter on a 10-yard TD run. He finished the day with 205 rushing yards on 22 carries, putting up more total offense by himself than Suttons Bay’s team total (178). He also had three catches for 42 yards.
Bryce Opie tied the game at 14-14 with a 4-yard TD run and conversion run as well with 2:21 left in the third quarter.
“It got very quiet over there for a little bit,” Garrick Opie said, referring to Colon’s cheering section, whose loudness contributed to four Norsemen false start penalties.
Opie finished with 83 rushing yards and 46 passing yards. He was intercepted four times as the Norsemen ran deep routes trying to generate big plays to go over Colon’s stingy defense.
The TDs from Mikesell and Opie were the first scored against the Magi first-string defense all season.
“Their quarterback, I tell you what, man, he can sling it,” Hattan said. “I hope that kid can get some looks, because he’s a college-level quarterback in my opinion. And they’re very well coached.”
Jonathan West picked off three of those passes, and Crawford had the other, stepping in front of a screen pass to Mikesell and jaunting 10 yards to a TD that put Colon up 14-6 at the time.
Philip Alva added a 1-yard QB sneak with 17 ticks left in the third and Crawford’s third touchdown came on a 94-yard TD run with 1:19 remaining.
“Going toe to toe and going 14-14 and showing that we’re not going to back down, that we’re going to continue to work like we have all year just shows the kind of team we are, and the kind of kids we have playing and the character that they have,” Garrick Opie said.
Bryce Opie led the defense with 16 tackles, including a pair for loss from the safety. Michael Wittman made 13 sacks, even after coming up limping on the game’s first play, and Camryn Knaub had 13 stops, Mikesell 10, Cesar Ramirez nine and Michael Loucks eight. Steven Bolger recovered a fumble.
Mikesell had two catches for 52 yards at halftime, almost half of Suttons Bay’s total offense.
Crews had to re-chalk the artificial playing surface on C.V. Money Field to make the field narrower for Saturday’s pair of eight-player championships.
“The turf is great,” Opie said. “If it was about 45 degrees in here, I think it would be a lot better, but that’s just me. That’s Northern Michigan boys.”
Following the game, Bryce Opie took a deep breath and looked over the Superior Dome field as the team congregated in a corner of the field, with tape to prevent turf burn dangling from his forearms.
Moments later, Suttons Bay athletic director and assistant coach Doug Periard addressed the team, saying, “Enjoy the tears. ... Look where you are right now, in the championship game.”