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Lightning delay brings out Aquaman, as Grand Blanc slips past Midland Dow, 22-20

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, August 29, 2019, 11:04 pm

FLINT — Once the rains came, and the lightning halted the game, it was a good time for Aquaman to come out.

No, it wasn’t a visit from Jason Momoa, the actor who played the superhero in the recent film, crawling out of the Flint River. 

Instead, it was a recently installed, barely prepared-for play that the Grand Blanc Bobcats pulled out of their back of tricks immediately after a lightning delay in Thursday’s season opener against Midland Dow in the Vehicle City Gridiron Classic at historic Atwood Stadium.

And it had a heroic impact on the contest, too, as the Bobcats scored a 65-yard touchdown on the first play after the game resumed, pushing their one-point lead to nine, then holding on for a 22-20 win over the Chargers.

“He said when when the lightning and waterworks and the rain came down, ‘Aquaman’s coming out,’” said Grand Blanc’s Ty Brotebeck of the hint coach Clint Alexander gave to the Bobcats when they went into the locker room to wait out the 30-minute lightning delay.

“We were kind of jaw-jacking in the locker room, kind of sad the lightning was coming in. We came out, and we were hungry. We just wanted to score, and get this ‘W’ for our families. … That play was going to be open 100 percent. Their linebackers were crashing. We knew that play was going to work.

“They’d bite on it. We faked the run like crazy, boot off of that, and — touchdown.”

It was a play that the coaching staff saw in a college game on TV, and decided to install earlier in the week.

Predicated on the defense blitzing the inside gaps, the play had Brotebeck reverse bootleg, and throw to Stephen Brown in the right flat, after the sophomore receiver had slipped across the formation as if he was blocking. 

“Coach Joe Lajewski saw that the other day, and we’re thinking ‘OK, there might be a situation where we need that.’ Like I said, though, we can’t run it, if we haven’t been running the ball. So the goal was run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. Certainly didn’t know there was a lightning delay coming, but it gave us time to remember. I went inside, and I said ‘Guys, it’s raining. We got a little lightning. It’s time for … Aquaman.’ Everybody went crazy. I said ‘Just catch it. If it gives us a first down, great.’ Didn’t know we’d score, but he’s a pretty quick little kid,” Alexander said. “

“We put it in about three days ago. … We saw Youngstown run it, and we thought ‘We’ve got the guy to do it.’ They ran it a little different. We thought if we could get our two-back stuff going, it would be a nice place for it, because he’s small enough that if you bring him out of the backfield, you lose him. He goes in motion, like he’s blocking. He broke down, got hot. I said you really gotta sell (the linebacker).”

Rather than just get a first down on the third-and-11, Brown scampered 65 yards for a score that put the Bobcats up 20-13 with 5:56 to play. Brotebeck ran in the 2-point conversion to make it a nine-point lead. 

Certainly, the play caught the Chargers flat-footed. But they’d already been dealing with facing an offense that had three quarterbacks — Brotebeck, Eason Edwards and Tylor Leedom — rotating under center, each bringing different styles and skill-sets.

“We’ve got a scrimmage film on them. They come out, and they’ve got three different quarterbacks, and two and half different offenses — I thought our kids played a whale of a game on defense. We didn’t get a couple of stops we needed to have, obviously. That was one of them, and it turns on big plays. Yeah, they caught us off guard. We weren’t ready for it. It wasn’t something we’d prepped,” Dow coach Jason Watkins said.

“What crosses us up is that Week 1 opponent that has that amount of variety to their game. So if it’s a Week 1 opponent that you’ve known for years, and yeah, they might have a little wrinkle in their system — this is only the second time we’ve ever played Grand Blanc. We ran into the same problem last year. You watch their scrimmage film, and he rests like eight guys in the scrimmage, so you don’t even know who’s on the team, who the starters are, because he’s got 80 guys. I get that. So you come out, and one quarterback’s running shotgun spread, and one quarterback’s running the I. Hey, more power to them. Those kids don’t have to play on defense. I’ve got nine guys that play both ways. And that’s not an excuse. That’s a winnable ballgame for us. 

It certainly was.

After the big-play score, a beat-up Shane Juday quarterbacked the Chargers down the field for a score to cut it to two with 2:31 left, hitting Garrett Daniels with a 31-yard bomb, then coming back with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Owen McCaffrey on the next play.

The Chargers tried the onside kick, but Dane Kilgore recovered for Grand Blanc. One first down later, and the Bobcats were able to kneel out the win.

“I told my kids, I said, ‘We didn’t quit. We battled hard all the way to the end.’ I’m proud of that effort,” Watkins said. “But unfortunately, we didn’t execute one too many times, and we lost the game by two.”

Prior to the final two scores, it had been a game of red zone stops.

The Bobcats stopped the Chargers inside the 10 twice, forcing a pair of Brenden Weick 24-yard field goals, then stopped Dow again at the 12, capitalizing on that stop when the potential go-ahead field goal sailed just wide. Earlier in the game, the Chargers fumbled in the red zone.

“Coach Rob Scranton’s new to our program, came in December, has worked his tail off to install his defense, but to keep them to three instead of seven — if we don’t, we don’t win this game. They battled,” Alexander said of his defense. “They were on the field forever. We were getting three-and-outs, and they were having long drives. Just to hang in there for three is big for us — and they missed one, which is even bigger. It’s a whole different game.”

Dow scored first on a 10-yard pop pass from Juday to tight end Evan Metiva to go up 7-0 with seconds left in the first quarter, but Grand Blanc tied it up midway through the second quarter when Edwards hit Mark Miller with a 9-yard TD pass to the front corner of the end zone. 

Grand Blanc took a 14-10 lead on the opening drive of the second half, as Ty Brotebeck drove the Bobcats 85 yards down the field in 10 plays, finishing the drive off with a dump-off pass to that Elijah Jackson took 28 yards for the score. 

By the end of the game, Juday had been in and out several times, forcing Dow to run receiver Kaleb Studebaker out of the Wildcat formation. But Juday just kept coming back in and battling. 

“He’s tough,” Alexander said of the Dow quarterback. “My God, he looked like Rocky Balboa out there, coming up off the carpet.”

By contrast, Bobcats played three quarterbacks by design, which certainly helped when Eason got nicked up. 

“Well, nobody really wanted the job. Tyler had the job, and I think they all did well. Eason got nicked up. I’ve done it before,” Alexander said. “It can be done if they work together, support each other — which they are. Eventually somebody’s going to show themselves to be the guy, but through camp, they’ve all been great. I said, ‘We’re playing four tailbacks, why not three quarterbacks?’”

Brotebeck didn’t mind it at all.

“Yeah, coach talked to us before this, and said we’re going to rotate the quarterbacks, find out who the dog is, and go from there,” the junior said. “It’s kind of hard to find a rhythm, but we stick together. We all love each other very much. We really became a family today, like coach Curt said. Props to the O-line — they really battled their (butts) off. I couldn’t be happier right now.”