Comstock Park makes critical fourth down stop, escapes with a 38-35 victory over Swan Valley
By Kelly Hill
Comstock Park – The Division 4 playoff opener against visiting Saginaw Swan Valley was tied at halftime and Comstock Park coaches Ed Kaman and Tim Johnson made a couple of key offensive adjustments.
The Panthers rode those adjustments, as well as a critical fourth-and-3 stop near midfield late in the third quarter, to a 38-35 victory over the Vikings despite Swan Valley’s 450 yards rushing in Friday night’s game.
The Panthers will play at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern (9-1) in a district final next Friday.
The Panthers (8-2) and Vikings (6-4) were tied 14-14 at halftime but Comstock Park, behind senior quarterback Pat Naughton, took its opening possession of the second half and marched 72 yards in seven plays for a lead it would never surrender.
Immediately after grabbing that lead, the Panthers stopped Swan Valley on fourth-and-3 at the Vikings’ 47-yard line. Just three plays later, Comstock Park led by two touchdowns as Naughton hit senior receiver Kiemon Carter with a 9-yard touchdown pass.
“It was important for us to come out in the second half and get that stop and get the lead,” said Comstock Park coach Mark Chapman. “Coaches Kaman and Johnson made some good offensive adjustments at halftime.”
Swan Valley senior running back Nate Neuenfeldt rushed for 229 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries. The Vikings averaged 245 yards rushing per game this season. They threw for only 18.
“We knew coming in that this would be a tough match-up because of their size,” Chapman said. “We knew it was going to be size against speed, and we did enough to win the game. They have lived and died with that running game the last month of the season. They line up in the power-I and pound people off the ball.”
One of those halftime adjustments including Naughton running a nifty quarterback draw, which resulted in him leading Comstock Park with 58 yards rushing. He also completed 22-of-30 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns. “I trust our guys,” Naughton said. “We had to just stick to our guns and stick to our weapons.”
Senior Monterio Smith caught two touchdown passes and rushed for a score while senior receiver Nick Turowski caught a 20-yard touchdown pass. The difference in the game turned out to be 37-yard field goal kicked by senior Nik Nava with 9:43 left to play.
“I felt pretty good in the first half, but in the second half they made some adjustments and we were still trying to figure out what some of those were,” said Swan Valley coach Ken Bourbina. “I’m proud of our kids though, because they played with all of their heart.”