By Brad Mosher
Jaxon Hewson’s 36-yard touchdown catch with 3:40 left in the game Monday brought Mott-Regent/New England to within two points, but that was as close as the Wildfire could get to catching Napoleon/G-S.
The visiting Imperials held on for a narrow 25-22 win in a game which had been rescheduled because of weather and hazardous road conditions.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Wildfire as the team heads into the season finale Saturday at 1 p.m. in Beach with a 2-6 overall record. In the Nine-Man Region 4 standings, the team has a 2-5 record, which has them tied with Napoleon/G-S in the standings. Mott-Regent/New England’s two wins came at the expense of Strasburg/Zeeland and
That is twice the win total from the 2018 season, but coach Nathan Zachmann pointed out that the team was just a few points from doubling that win total.
In addition to Monday’s narrow two-point loss, the team also dropped a narrow two-point decision to South Border (22-20) earlier in the season.
Visitors score first
The visiting Imperials got their first opportunity when the Wildfire had a problem punting on fourth and 11 yards deep inside the MRNE territory.
Using the short field to their advantage, the visitors moved down to the 12-yard line. After the Imperials recovered their own fumble they moved to a first down at the one.
Two plays later, the visitors scored on a Garrett Jangula dive with 3:46 left in the first quarter.
The Wildfire came back with a drive that ended at the 18-yard line when the Imperials intercepted a pass in the end zone.
Four plays later, the Imperials were forced to punt from their 11 yard line. The punt was blocked by Logan Wolf, giving the ball to the Wildfire at the nine-yard line when Logan Lutz recovered the ball.
Hewson ran the ball in for the score with 7:41 left in the second quarter and Nathan Kaufman hit Sam Heuther for the conversion, giving the hosts an 8-6 lead.
The Imperials started from near midfield and turned a fourth and three play into a 45-yard score by Jangula with 5:37 left to give the visitors a 12-8 lead.
The Imperials kept the ball on an onside kick at the Wildfire 44 yard line, but were plagued with penalties that pushed the team back to their own 30 yard line for a punt.
The Wildfire stalled and punted the ball back to the Imperials at their own 32-yard line.
Quarterback Tucker Schneider hit an open tight end Noah Becker along the sideline and he didn’t stop until he was in the end zone.
The score gave the Imperials an 18-8 lead. The conversion pass to Quinn Lindenberg was called back with a penalty, then an unsportsmanlike penalty moved the ball back to the 24-yard line. The long distance conversion attempt failed when it was intercepted in the end zone by Michael Frank.
On the next drive, Frank came down with a key pass at the six.
Hewson scored from the six and Kaufman caught a conversion pass to bring the score to 18-16 with less than a minute left before halftime.
Heuther recovered an onside kick at the Napoleon/G-S 36 yard line with 53 seconds left, but had a third-down pass intercepted to end the threat.
The Imperials opened the second half with an onside kick that gave them the ball at the Wildfire 49, but they turned the ball over at the two-yard line.
The Wildfire moved the ball out from the red zone before punting.
The visitors drove back into the red zone, with Jangula scoring from the two with 10:09 left in the game. With the extra point, the Imperials increased the lead to 25-16.
The Wildfire gave up the football on a fourth and 14 punt pass play when Schneider stepped in front of the Wildfire receiver at the Mott 45-yard line.
The Wildfire had another chance when the Imperials turned the ball over on downs at the Mott 25.
The hosts drove down to the Imperial 36 when they scored the final touchdown on Hewson’s 36-yard catch.
For the coach, the team had a strong performance in the loss.
“I am really proud how we competed. We just could not quite get over the hump. There were some crucial plays but the biggest play was coming out of the half, losing that onside kick,” Zachmann said.
“We were only down by two and we wanted the ball. That hurt. We just we not being disciplined,” he added, noting that Napoleon/G-S was able to capitalize on several big plays.
The team now faces a tough road test Saturday in Beach, the coach said.
“We have a short week. They (the Buccaneers) are going to be ready for us,” he added.