SUTTONS BAY — The Suttons Bay football team feels stuck in the middle of a dream.
Following a 45-14 destruction of Kingston (9-3) in the Division 1 8-player state semifinal at Suttons Bay on Saturday, the Norsemen (12-0) didn’t even know if they were in reality.
“It’s insane, I’m kind of stuck in a dream ever since last week,” Suttons Bay senior quarterback and captain Bryce Opie said immediately after the win. “I just can’t really believe it. I’m just super ecstatic though, we’ve been working so hard all year. We’ve been working for this our entire lives and here we are.”
Suttons Bay had the goal of reaching the Superior Dome dating back to last season when they fell to Pickford in the regional final. That goal was actualized on Saturday as the Norse will be heading to Marquette to take on Colon (12-0) in the state title game next Saturday.
“All year and ever since even Pop Warner this has been our dream and we put up pictures of the dome in our locker room and that’s been our one focused goal,” Norse senior Camryn Knaub said. “We just had to get past this game first.”
The Norsemen poured on the points in the second half to run away from Kingston on Saturday, leaving no doubt that they belong competing for a state championship.
Suttons Bay led 18-14 at half and leaned on their defense in the third quarter to give them the spark to put the game away. The Cardinals’ first possession of the second half was stifled at the line of scrimmage, forcing a punt from inside their own 15 and setting the Norse up at the Kingston 31-yard line. Three plays later Opie would score on a 19-yard scamper off a designed quarterback draw to put the Norsemen up 26-14 and give them all the cushion they would need.
The Norse found their stride after a tough first half on offense and used their superior conditioning to tire-out the Cardinals.
“They had a lot of size on us but we wore those guys down in the first half,” Bryce Opie said. “We kicked it into gear in the second half and I think that conditioning early in the season and continuing it throughout has helped us in the long run.”
Opie added another score on a 33-yard run that included him running over the Cardinals’ safety to get to the endzone and make it 32-14. Lucas Mikesell pounded another score in from 8-yards out and Jake Murphy toted in a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to make the final score 45-14.
“I think in the first half we were kind of feeling things out a little bit because we didn’t know this team,” Suttons Bay head coach Garrick Opie said. “And I think once we started playing we saw some things, and then we just started put together a better game plan for the second half, and it really came together.”
The Norse had trouble getting their offense going in the first quarter with both of their possessions ending quickly on three-and-outs — they only spent six plays and 98 seconds on offense in the opening stanza. Kingston was able to get on the board first while the Norse were feeling things out when Caleb Goss bullied his way into the endzone for a 6-yard score, followed by a two-point conversion run to make it 8-0 at the start of the second quarter.
Lucas Mikesell wouldn’t let the Cardinals feel good for very long as he took the ensuing kickoff 76-yards to the house to make it 8-6 after a missed conversion attempt.
“I think that give us a little bit of motivation,” Mikesell said of his big play. “We were all really frustrated because we’re making mistakes when we started. But after that first touchdown everybody was like all right, let’s go, we got this.”
The Norse would stop the Cardinals on the next possession and strike quickly once again to take the lead for the first time. On the second play of the next drive, Camryn Knaub found a hole on the outside and sprinted 51-yards to the pylon for the go-ahead score.
Kingston would find that last of its success on offense just before the end of the first half. The Cardinals put together a 11-play drive, featuring five runs by Jake DeLong, that was capped by a 16-yard screen pass from Aaron Koehler to Goss to give them their final lead of the afternoon.
Goss was a monster in the first half and the Norse needed several tacklers to bring him down, especially on the muddy and slippery field. Suttons Bay keyed on Goss throughout and tried to tire him out — Garrick Opie described Goss as a “rhinoceros” as he carried the ball 25 times for 125 yards and a score.
“Once we started hitting him he was getting tired and they were taking him and putting him at guard,” Mikesell said. “And that really helped us because he’s like a train, it takes like everyone to take him down.”
Opie and Mikesell also hooked up for a 41-yard passing score with 56 seconds left in the first half to give the Norse the 18-14 lead.
Opie finished the day 3-for-9 passing for 63 yards and a score while toting the ball nine times for 51 yards and two scores on the ground all while garnering 19 tackles on defense. Mikesell was his usual multi-dimensional threat, tallying three total touchdowns (one each of rushing, receiving and kick return) while rushing for 28 yards and making eight tackles and an interception on defense.
“We’ve been dreaming of this since day one,” Mikesell said. “We finally have the opportunity to go to the dome. It’s going to be great experience and we hope we can finish it well.”
Knaub toted the ball six times for 68 yards and a score and added 10 tackles on defense. Gavin Shananaquet recovered a fumble and had eight tackles while Micheal Loucks led the Norse defense with 22 tackles and an interception.
Suttons Bay is in search of the first football state title in school history in their first appearance in the 8-player finals but will need to get past a very talented Colon team to do so.
Colon has dominated all season long, outscoring the 12 teams they have beat 605-58. The Magi have shutout six opponents and no team has scored more than 12 points in a game against them. They defeated defending state champion Morrice 27-8 on Saturday.
“Everybody has to be to all-in next week,” Bryce Opie said. “We have to have the best practice week of our lives. It’s going to be my last week of football and all of the seniors last week of football as a team and we need to treat it that way. We know there is no other game, there is nothing else after this so we need to go out there and win this game.”