by Calli Newberry
With less than seven minutes to go in the first half, the undefeated Port Huron Northern Huskies trailed the Fraser Ramblers 15-0 on their home field in the first Macomb Area Conference-Blue game of the season.
Senior quarterback Dylan Bloink dropped back to pass and was nearly intercepted, but junior wide receiver Hayden Prone snagged the deflected ball out of the air, stayed in bounds, and ran it into the endzone for a 52-yard touchdown. The extra point was good, putting the Huskies on the board, 7-15, and it stayed that way until the half.
“That was my first touchdown of the year, coming in as a junior, so that was fun to do,” Prone said. “It really gave us some momentum to win. After that they didn’t score so I feel like it gave us a confidence boost and hyped everybody up.”
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Northern’s lockdown defense did in fact hold the Ramblers scoreless for the remainder of the game, creating a pattern of punts and interceptions for the Fraser offense. The Huskies went on to win 22-15.
“Defense played outstanding tonight for the third week in a row. Pass rush was great, the back field was good, we gave up a couple in the first quarter and then we settled in after that,” head coach Larry Roelens said. “We just kept fighting and clawing and believing in each other. The kids played so hard tonight, I’m so proud of them. That defense was phenomenal.”
The Huskies held Fraser to -26 rushing yards and two interceptions. Senior lineman Zac Sayers said he credits his teammates with good communication on the field that makes his job easier.
“We have a job and we just go out there and be at 100%. This team is really all about defense. They had a really good pass game and we obviously had some good pass coverage,” Sayers said. “We just know the field and communicate so well that we can just go out and know exactly where to go and how things are going to go for the other side of the ball.”
The Huskies received the ball to start the half, a five-minute possession that ended in eight points with a touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Jacob Kerrigan and a two-point conversion run in by Bloink. Now tied at 15, Northern was back in the game.
The Ramblers got the ball back on their own 20-yard line, but the Husky defense didn’t allow them get much farther. On a third-and-16 pass attempt from their own 14, senior safety Isaac Dunn intercepted the ball. Northern marched down field for a kick attempt but was no good, and Fraser took back possession.
Still tied at 15 with 6:23 to go in the final quarter, Fraser got the ball on its own 20-yard line. After gaining two yards on second down, a third-and-8 pass attempt resulted in another interception, this time by senior cornerback MJ Green.
“They just kept playing hard and we made a few adjustments because they were kind of spread on us so we just made a ew adjustments after the first quarter,” Roelens said of his defense. “They played a great game.”
And those adjustments paid off. Green had run the ball back to the Fraser four-yard line to put the Huskies in scoring position.
After losing a few yards to put Northern at second-and-7, senior running back Joel Steinhauer ran the ball to the two-yard line. On the next possession, Steinhauer forces the ball into the endzone as he dove across a pile of defenders. With another extra point, the Huskies took the lead, just in time, with a score of 22-15.
“Joel ran hard today, he had a great game today. Up front did a great job blocking for him,” Roelens said. “Dylan did a great job of getting the ball to receivers and making some plays here and there. This was a total team effort tonight, I’m proud of my kids.”
Steinhauer totaled 19 carries for 48 yards. At the helm of the offense, Bloink threw 12-24 for 162 yards in the air and two touchdowns. Prone led on the receiving end of that with two catches totalling 59 yards. Fellow junior receiver Kayne Cole also had two receptions for 39 yards, Kerrigan had four catches for 41 yards, and Green snagged three receptions for 21 yards.
Northern will play Lake Shore next Friday at Memorial Stadium, and then travel to Sterling Heights the following week. Both teams are currently 0-3.
“We’ve got to get better at getting going faster instead of waiting offensively,” Roelens said. “We’ve got to match our defense’s intensity to give them a lead to play underneath instead of us trying to crawl back from behind and counting on those guys to get some stops. We’ve just got to come out faster offensively, and stay fundamental and execute.”
This will be key in early October when the Huskies face L’Anse Creuse and Port Huron High, who both stand at 2-1, (1-0 MAC-Blue). Roelens said he’s confident in his team’s work ethic, however, to get the job done.
“My senior leadership is awesome, and I have a great junior class as well,” he said. “But they’re great kids and they come to practice every day and work hard.”