2017-11-02 / Sports

Mikesell, Norse rumble into regional final

Suttons Bay workhorse runs wild as program posts first 8-man playoff win
By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor

Lucas Mikesell took the give, ran right, bounced left through a cutback lane and exploded up the sideline.

The 49-yard scamper on Suttons Bay’s first play from scrimmage set up a 1-yard Evan Rohrback touchdown run and, perhaps more importantly, sent a message to members of the Wyoming Tri-Unity defense.

They were in for a long day.

Mikesell ran rampant against the visiting Defenders on Saturday, breaking his own Suttons Bay 8-man rushing record with a dazzling 239- yard performance on 22 carries as the Norsemen exacted revenge against Tri-Unity in a convincing 38-24 pre-regional victory.

“He’s running so much harder — and he’s not letting one guy bring him down,” Suttons Bay coach Dan Durkin said. “He’s only a sophomore, so I get to coach him for two more years, but he’s just running so well and seeing the field so much better, making those cutbacks and breaking off long runs with his speed. He’s been great this year.”

That said, the speedster’s first defensive series didn’t go according to plan.

Mikesell blew a tire on the rain-soaked Suttons Bay gridiron, allowing Ethan Rosendall to sneak into the end zone untouched on a 26-yard bubble pass from quarterback Brayden Ophoff.

The Norsemen struck back on their second possession, however, capping the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run from junior fullback Caleb Smith.

Smith, who rushed for 75 hard-earned yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, brought the thunder — and Mikesell brought the lightning.

His next strike, a 50-yard touchdown reception from Rohrback, came with 40.5 seconds left in the first quarter and gave Suttons Bay a 20-6 lead.

He and Smith helped Suttons Bay wear Tri-Unity down in the second half and keep Ophoff, an all-conference first-team performer, off the field.

“Our linemen worked hard and opened up holes,” said Mikesell, who added eight tackles and an interception to the impressive stat line. “We were really fired up for this game.”

Rohrback also came up big for Suttons Bay, completing 4-of-8 attempts for 108 yards and finishing with three total touchdowns: the 1-yard sneak, the 50-yard heave to Mikesell and a 15-yard touchdown reception from Bryce Opie that put Suttons Bay up 26-6 in the second quarter.

Perhaps more impressive were Rohrback’s defensive contributions in the absence of linebacker Erik Halvorsen, the team’s defensive leader. Rohrback made a team-high 10 tackles, including three for loss, and broke up a trio of Tri-Unity passes. His play earned praise from staff in the press box on more than one occasion.

“Everyone stepped up and filled the void,” Durkin said. “They did a great job as a team, and I’m proud of them.

“We put it all together this week, which is nice. They have a great quarterback and (longtime Suttons Bay defensive coordinator Stan Pasch) put a great gameplan in this week. We executed it, for the most part, flawlessly. Offensively, we wanted to run the ball and control the clock. We did just that.”

The Norsemen racked up 375 rushing yards while the Defenders, who made the score a little more respectable with a touchdown pass as time expired, finished with 316 total yards.

NEXT UP: Central Lake

If Suttons Bay pulls off the upset tomorrow, fans may as well book their trip to the Superior Dome.

Of the eight remaining Division 1 8-man teams, Central Lake is the lone unbeaten. The Trojans bring to the regional final 65.778 playoff points — most among Division 1 8-man teams — and an offensive that is putting up more than 52 points per game.

The Trojans trounced visiting Mesick last week 36-14.

“They are definitely the most complete team we’ve faced this year,” Durkin said on Tuesday. “They have dynamic and powerful runners in the backfield. The offensive line blocks as well as any line we’ve seen all year. Their quarterback conducts their offense in a way that makes it very challenging to stop. Defensively, they are fundamentally sound, physical and tough to run on. It’ll definitely be a dogfight and we’ll need to play our A-game to get the job done.”

The Norse, now 7-3, didn’t exactly bring their A-game to Central Lake in Week 6 — losing 44-14 — but they’ll have another shot at revenge once the ball is kicked at 7 p.m.

The winner will play Stephenson or Cedarville in the semifinals.

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