Saturday, November 1, 2008

PLAYOFFS: Grand Blanc at Hartland

**Matt Poches goes up for 1 of his 8 catches**
**Ryan Morley looks to throw downfield**
**Vonn Jones has turned into a lockdown corner**
**Justice Hayes runs behind Justin Music**

HARTLAND- While both Hartland and Grand Blanc used their high powered offenses to punch their tickets to the big show, it was Hartland's defense that stole the show under the Friday night lights. The Eagles' defense stifled a Bobcat offense that averaged 38 points a game in the regular season in route to a 21-0 victory.

Hartland took the opening possession and instantly took advantage of 6-4 sophomore Matt Poches, who had a 7 inch advantage over a Grand Blanc corner, to move the ball downfield. But the drive appeared to be stalled on 4th-and-8 when Hartland was set to punt the ball but Grand Blanc was flagged for encroachment. Hartland sent the offense back on the field and QB Chris Cagle went right back to Poches who was interfered with to keep the Eagle drive alive. Four plays later Hartland faced another fourth down, and again Cagle went to Poches, this time connecting for a 22 yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 6:22 to play in the first quarter.

Neither team would score again for the remainder of the first half. Grand Blanc struggled to sustain drives by going three and out on their first two drives and turning the ball over on their next two. Hartland was able to move the ball downfield but fumbled the ball away at Grand Blanc's 20 yard line and a sack on third down kept Hartland from tacking on a field goal as a 39 yard attempt fell just short.

The play of the game came midway through the third quarter, Grand Blanc tried to throw a bubble screen to Tony Jones but Carson Pippin read the play and hopped the route, intercepting the ball, and giving possession back to Hartland on the two yard line. Three plays later Cagle crossed the goal line for a 14-0 lead.

Grand Blanc attempted to get back in the game to start the fourth quarter, but after setting up a 1st-and-goal on the 10 yard line, a run was stuffed for a three yard loss, and three passes fell incomplete in the endzone. Two of those passes were batted down by Vonn Jones.

Hartland then put the nail in the coffin with a with a 27 yard halfback fake reverse pass to Poches for the game's final touchdown.


Hartland- the Eagles now advance to the district championship where they will get a rematch against Howell, who they lost to 20-30 in week 6. Hartland's offense show up as predicted with a sick receiving core of Matt Poches and Vonn Jones, and quarterback Chris Cagle who can deliver the ball anywhere on the field.

But it was the Eagle defense that impressed me. Grand Blanc's offense is just as good as any in the state and Hartland just swarmed all over the field looking to hit anything in reach. If the Eagles can continue to stay consistent on both sides of the ball then they are capable of playing with anyone in division 1.

Grand Blanc- I know the Bobcats don't want any moral speeches but they can raise their heads with pride. The Bobcats have been in playoff mode for six weeks now, after starting 1-3, the Bobcats won their final five games just to qualify for the playoffs and that is an accomplishment in its own.

And while G.B. will miss seniors like Justin Music, Adam Cesal, and James Dehoff, the future looks as bright as even in Bobcat Country with studs like sophomore Ryan Morley (QB), junior Tony Jones (WR), sophomore Justice Hayes (RB), and junior Gabe Martin (WR/LB) all returning.

Offensive MVP: Matt Poches, Hartland- although he's just a sophomore he was the difference in the game. Grand Blanc had no answer for the combination of size and speed of Poches. Poches finished with 8 catches for 115 yards and two TDs.

Defensive MVP: Vonn Jones, Hartland- going into the game I knew Jones would have his hands full by having to perform well on both sides of the ball but I couldn't have been prouder of the job Jones did defensively. Not only did he have an interception but the senior corner added 5 tackles and 5 pass deflections. Jones added 7 receptions for 76 yards as a receiver.

Chris Cagle, Hartland- the senior QB completed 20 of 28 passes for 211 yards and a TD to go with a rushing TD, Cagle also added 60 yards on the ground.

Jon Stevens, Hartland- the 6-5 TE/DE had some big plays on both sides of the ball by hauling in 4 catches to go with a pair of sacks.

Ryan Morley, GB- no it wasn't the game the sophomore wanted but he gained valuable experience and will only learn from this game. His skills are the real deal however he was thrown off balance by Hartland's pass rush and a fast secondary.

Justice Hayes, GB-
Hayes played despite being only 70% according to his teammates. He was consistent on the ground but just lacked his homerun speed that we are acustomed to seeing. He still managed to finish with 100 all-purpose yards.

Tony Jones, GB- Hartland's game plan was to shadow Jones all night and they did. GB still tried to get Jones involved with a number of screens and reverses but Hartland was all over the junior star. Jones did manage to make 4 receptions for 77 yards.

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