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Fenton stifles Goodrich’s Tyson Davis, winning inaugural league title game to rule Flint Metro League again

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, October 19, 2019, 1:24 pm

GOODRICH — When the Fenton Tigers came streaming together on the goal line after the postgame handshake Friday night, the ‘Our House — Our House’ chant was audible from a goodly distance away.

Whether it was intended for the field at Goodrich’s Roy U. Stacy Athletic Complex — where they’ve played now a grand total of once — or the Flint Metro League in general … well, that’s up for debate.

“That’s just kind of a chant that started years and years ago. It’s like when we go somewhere, we want to make it our house,” said Fenton coach Jeff Setzke. “We don’t care if we’re on the road or home — you get the same chant.”

Still, it had some dual meaning Friday night, as the Tigers dispatched the host Martians in the inaugural Flint Metro title game, 42-21, earning their way back to the top of the league standings after a brief year away from what they figure is their rightful place.

Indeed, the Flint Metro is Fenton’s house once again.

“It’s special, without a doubt. It’s awesome to say you’re the first one, and it’s kind of bragging rights for a while, you know?” junior quarterback Dylan Davidson said. “It’s the joint league they created this year, and to be the first one to bring it all home is just special. … To come home and be the No. 1 out of everyone is cool, and it’s something that we’ll remember forever.”

The Flint Metro expanded from nine teams to 12 this year, adding three schools from the remnants of the Genesee Area Conference’s mostly dissolved Red Division, allowing the FML to set up two divisions with schools of like sizes, as well as a championship game between the division winners. 

One of the GAC refugees, Goodrich (6-2, 5-0 Flint Metro-II) won the Stars Division, while Fenton (7-1, 5-0 Flint Metro-I) won the Stripes Division to get to Friday’s game. After finishing third in the Flint Metro a year ago, snapping a streak of seven straight seasons where they either shared or won the league title outright, getting the title back was a point of emphasis for the Tigers.

“Yeah, we did (want to get it back). We kind of lost it last year, and ever since then, everything we were doing, we were just trying to get back to this, and prove that Fenton’s the top dog again,” Davidson said. “Definitely a big motivator. I think that was the first time in seven years that we did (not win it). So to get it back was really cool.”

It was a conversation the Tigers didn’t shy away from in the offseason.

“Oh, yeah. Absolutely,” Setzke said. “We had won seven in a row, and sometimes you don’t miss something until you don’t have it, and it became real once we finished third last year. It’s a good record, but our kids want to win the title. So that was definitely a goal this year.”

That goal wouldn’t have been realized had the Tigers not fixed some flaws in their defense that were evident in a season-opening, 54-27 loss to Davison. After giving up 54 points in that loss, the Tigers gave up 55 total — 21 of those in a three-point squeaker over Linden in which they turned the ball over six times — over the next six weeks, headed into Friday’s contest.

“They’ve been resilient from the standpoint that Game 1 was a wake-up call. We probably weren’t going to win that game, but we were all very disappointed, because we knew we didn’t play the way we should have. Each week, it’s about building on something … and we’ve done that,” Setzke said. “Our defense has been good all year. We knew we had a good defense — we were very disappointed in Week 1 with the way we played, but when you look at what we’ve done since then, we barely give up seven to 14 points per game. … Defense has been lights-out all year. Coach (Ron) Eltringham and Brian (Eltringham) and Caleb (Hyder), they have just put really good game plans together. They put together a really good one tonight to take (Tyson) Davis out of the game. But it’s been consistent all year — every week, we’re ready to play defense. So we know from an offensive standpoint, if we’re sputtering, the defense is going to pick us up.”

That defensive prowess would be tested by Goodrich junior Tyson Davis, who came in with 30 receptions and 11 touchdowns, averaging 28 yards per catch, and had scored eight of his 15 total touchdowns over the last two weeks. 

The Tigers held him to four catches for 15 yards, and 50 rushing yards on 10 carries. 

“He was a key thing. We thought, if we can handle him, we’d be OK. And he didn’t get in the end zone, so that’s pretty big,” Setzke said. “That was the thing: You can double him when he’s on the outside, but they move him around, and they put him in the slot. Our coaches really came up with a creative way that even when he moved into the slot, he was going to get lots of attention.

“And the one thing is, you KNOW he’s going to get the ball. He’s elusive, and breaks some tackles — I think if we would’ve gotten some good tackles tonight, it would’ve been an even different game, but I’m very pleased.”

The Martians were trying their best to get Davis the ball, lining him up out wide, in the slot, under center, and back as a returner for every kick. The Tigers chose to kick away from him on special teams, and throw away from him — he’d had six interceptions over the last two weeks, as well — and bottled him up defensively.

“Absolutely, we were trying to get him the ball — he’s key to what we do. And they did a nice job of taking that away from us,” Goodrich coach Tom Alward said. “They’re a good football team.”

The Martians didn’t help themselves, turning it over twice inside the Fenton 40-yard line, and coming up short on a last-second bomb to end the first half. 

“It killed us. We had our opportunities, shot ourselves in the foot, but again that’s a good football team. Hats off to them,” Alward said. “They executed, they made plays — we didn’t make the plays.”

After the two teams swapped early touchdowns, Fenton took the lead for good three plays into the second quarter, when Davidson found senior Brady Triola on a 9-yard touchdown pass. Triola had a first-quarter interception to turn Goodrich away, and would make one of the biggest plays of the game, tracking down Goodrich’s Luke Robinson on the last-second heave to end the first half.

“The track coach (Anthony McMillan) is one of my coaches,” Setzke said. “These kids can run. I don’t think people realize we can run. You saw on that — it should’ve been a touchdown, and he tracked him down.”

It wasn’t the only speed Fenton displayed. 

After power backs Jaden Lainesse and Kaleb Anderson scored on short runs to give the Tigers their 21-7 halftime lead, the speed back — Brandon Miller — would take over in the second half. The junior ran for 165 yards on 20 carries, including a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, while Anderson added a second score — a 63-yard romp — in a two-score burst that left Fenton up 35-7 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.

“There’s a reason why he was fifth in the state as a sophomore in the 200, right? The kid can fly. We didn’t think they’d have anybody that could run with him if we got him loose, and he did today,” Setzke said. “We got him on the edge where he’s strong, but he ran tough inside, too.”

Davidson finished with 105 yards rushing — helping pace Fenton to 343 rush yards — and 101 passing.

“I think he’s been frustrated. He’s very tough on himself, and he’s been frustrated — especially after the Linden game; he had a tough night — and he just comes back to practice, and it’s like, just work on the little things. You saw tonight what he’s capable of, running it and throwing it — he can do it,” Setzke said. “As good as Dylan is as a quarterback, because he got hurt last year, it’s still like it’s his first year. He still keeps growing, and you can see that each week. He’s starting grow. He was spectacular tonight, and I don’t really think they were expecting that from him.”

Goodrich quarterback Aidan Rubio finished with 194 yards passing, hitting Tucker Reickel with two scoring passes. Senior Nolan Robb finished off the night’s scoring with a 6-yard touchdown run with 1:07 left. 

Even with the loss, the title-game appearance was still a worthwhile accomplishment for the Martians, who won the three-team GAC Red a year ago, before coming over to the Flint Metro.

“Oh, yeah, absolutely. These kids earned the right to be here, and I’m proud of them. I wish we would’ve shown better, but hey, it’s a learning process. Next year, try to get back to it — maybe we’ll run into them again, see if we can go out to their place and return the favor,” Alward said.

“It was awesome. A lot of good schools, quality programs. Just great to be part of it.”