EAST JORDAN — A defensive stand in the red zone and a clutch touchdown in the waning minutes helped give East Jordan a 22-18 varsity football win over Frankfort and a conference championship Friday night.

The Red Devils moved to 7-2 overall — their most wins since 1999 — and 5-0 in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legacy Division. The conference title is the program’s first since 1986, snapping a drought of 35 years.

East Jordan head coach Greg Kitson said his team set a goal of winning the conference.

“We learned to win this year,” Kitson said. “I’m not sure East Jordan wins that game in the last couple years. Frankfort played tough. Our guys were able to dig a little bit deeper and find a way to win. I’m super proud of them.”

East Jordan trailed Frankfort (6-3, 5-1 NMFC-Legends) 18-16 in the fourth quarter until Carter Sherman found open field on the outside and rushed in for the game-winning touchdown with three minutes left to play. The score came after the Red Devils’ defense made a big fourth-down stop at their own 15-yard line and got the ball back from the Panthers on downs. Zander Johnacheck scored East Jordan’s other two touchdowns.

“They weren’t going to be denied tonight,” Kitson said. “Our defense stepped up when it needed to.”

Kitson pointed to his team’s 22-14 double-overtime victory against Harbor Springs last Friday and said that win proved to his players that they can always dig down a little deeper.

“We haven’t really played a bad football game all year,” Kitson said.

Nick Stevenson had 188 yards on the ground for Frankfort, and Adam Mills had 112 yards of the rushing variety. Panthers’ head coach Ed Schindler said it was a tough loss, especially with the conference crown so close to their grasp.

“It was a great high school football game, but it’s always hard to be on the losing end,” he said.

Both the Red Devils and Panthers are likely to make the playoffs. Matchups will be announced Sunday.

FOOTBALL

TC Central 56

N. Farmington 0

Scoring plays: Reed Seabase 8-yard TD run; Josh Burnham 15-yard TD pass to Dante Williams; Seabase 10-yard TD run; Burnham 56-yard TD pass to Seabase; Seabase 75-yard TD run; Seabase 17-yard TD run; Braxton Hill 4-yard TD run; Josh Klug 31-yard TD run; Everest Noyes 6/7 PATs; Carson Bourdo 2PAT catch.

Traverse City Central (8-1, 5-0 Big North): Burnham 2-3 passing, 71 yards, 2 TDs, 5 carries, 73 yards, 3 tackles; Seabase 8 carries, 134 yards, 4 TDs; Klug 5 carries, 59 yards, TD, 4 tackles, 2 TFL, sack; Parker Schmidt 6 tackles; Chase Adams sack, 2 TFL

Manton 38

JoBurg 34

Manton (4-5, 2-5 Highland): Kyle Hudson 144 yards rushing, 3 TDs; Lucas McKernan 103 yards rushing, 111 yards passing, 2 TDs, 20 tackles; Luke Puffer TD catch; Carson Danford caught go-ahead TD with 3:19 to play, recovered fumbled to seal win; Logan Baker fumble recovery; Caleb Webb 15 tackles; Noah Cargill 8 tackles.

“Our guys battled throughout,” Manton head coach Eric Salani said. “They never gave up.”

Elk Rapids 49

Kalkaska 28

Elk Rapids (2-7, 1-4 NMFC-Leaders): No stats reported.

Kalkaska (1-8, 0-5 NMFC-Leaders): Landen Hart 163 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 3-7 passing, 99 yards, TD, 8 tackles, 2 TFL, sack; Chris Gay 5-yard TD run; Tim Anderson 55-yard TD reception; Jake Schaub 12 tackles; Brad Elkins 6 tackles; Justin Harlan 6 tackles; Carson Hillier fumble recovery.

Glen Lake 20

Mancelona 6

Glen Lake (4-5, 3-2 NMFC-Leaders): Connor Ciolek 5-11 passing, 92 yards, 2 TDs (37, 11), 13 carries, 31 yards, TD (1), 10 tackles; Ethan Steffke 5 catches, 92 yards, 2 TDs (37, 11); Eli Kangas 11 carries, 50 yards, 9 tackles; Henry Plumstead 2 PAT kicks.

Mancelona (5-3, 2-3 NMFC-Leaders): No stats reported.

Grayling 32

Benzie Central 26

Grayling (7-2, 5-2 NMFC-Legends): Ethan Kucharek 6-17 passing, 121 yards, 2 TDs; David Millikin 22 carries, 231 yards, 3 TDs; Anthony Fisher 13 carries, 101 yards, 4 catches, 108 yards, TD; Dakota Martin TD catch.

Benzie Central (2-7, 1-6 NMFC-Legends): No stats reported.

Cadillac 35

Fremont 0

Cadillac (7-2, 3-2 Big North): No stats reported.

Clare 42

Gaylord 20

Gaylord (2-7, 1-4 Big North): No stats reported.

Marquette 17

Petoskey 14

Petoskey (3-6, 1-4 Big North): No stats reported.

Howard City 32

Manistee 28

Manistee (5-4, 1-2 Lakes 8): No stats reported.

8-PLAYER FOOTBALL

Inland Lakes 44

Gaylord SM 30

Gaylord St. Mary (5-4, 4-2 Ski Valley): Gavin Bebble 35 carries, 138 yards, 3TDs, 21-25 passing, 208 yards, 2 2PAT.

Vestaburg 76

Bear Lake 28

Bear Lake (5-4, 2-3 West Michigan D): No stats reported.

Brethren 54

Onekama 0

No stats reported.

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