Flint Powers hands Goodrich a 41-0 setback, advances to district finalFootball  |
Goodrich — Matt Wiskur has seen first-hand how playoff football can become a new beginning.
He watched from the stands as a seventh-grader in 2011 as his brother, Ethan, helped a 5-4 Flint Powers team march all the way to the state Division 5 championship. The Chargers squeaked into the playoffs that year, then built momentum throughout the playoffs before steamrolling favored Lansing Catholic Central in the championship game.
"That's my main motivation," Wiskur said. "They're the strongest team I've ever seen. They had great leaders. They were 5-4 going into the playoffs. They knew they were going to win states the whole time. They were confident in themselves, and they lived up to that."
Now a junior at Powers, Wiskur is using the playoffs as an opportunity to elevate his game with the hope of winning a state title of his own.
After a regular season in which he was limited by an illness, Wiskur broke loose by catching six passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns in Powers' 41-0 victory over Goodrich in a pre-district Division 4 game on Friday.
Powers (8-2) will host Lake Fenton (6-4) next Friday at 7 p.m. Lake Fenton stunned Corunna, 29-27.
During the regular season, Wiskur had only 12 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. He also returned a punt for a touchdown.
"I never really had this many passes before," Wiskur said. "I really wanted to prove to myself I could do it. I didn't really expect it. I caught the first fade. The coach stuck to it and I started getting more passes."
Wiskur had a 48-yard catch and run to give Powers a 15-0 lead on the first play after an interception by teammate Connor Stein. Any hope Goodrich had of bouncing back in the second half ended when Wiskur ran a streak down the left side of the field and hauled in a 38-yard scoring strike from Noah Sargent with three seconds left before halftime, making it a 35-0 game.
Wiskur wasn't showcased much during the season, so the Martians wouldn't have seen much of him on film. They focused on covering tight end Nick Thompson, who had seven of the team's 12 touchdown catches this season. Thompson didn't have a catch until grabbing Sargent's fifth touchdown pass of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter.
"He had a great game against (Midland) Dow (on Sept. 25)," Powers coach Bob Buckel said of Wiskur. "He ran a punt back for a touchdown and had a big catch. He had a touch of pneumonia, something bronchial, so he missed two weeks. He's been back, but I've been rotating him because he hasn't been 100 percent. This has been the first night he's been able to just run."
With a healthy Wiskur as a target, Sargent had yet another weapon available as he put together his greatest game of the season.
Sargent was 12-for-14 for 276 yards and five touchdowns. He also opened the scoring with a dazzling 83-yard run on a third-down scramble, breaking a tackle at his own 44-yard line and one more at the Goodrich 6.
"I just saw the left side open," Sargent said. "My receivers had great downfield blocking. It's the playoffs; you've got to run as hard as you can."
Sargent's run came four plays after a huge momentum shift.
Eric Hildebrand had a 46-yard punt return and a 27-yard catch to give Goodrich (7-3) the ball at the Powers 10-yard line on its first possession of the game. Hildebrand actually stumbled and fell at the 10, or else he likely would have scored. On the next play, Thomas Hart ran the ball to the 1-yard line before fumbling into the end zone. Powers defensive tackle Daurel Tolbert recovered the ball with 9:54 left in the first quarter.
In a game ultimately decided by 41 points, one play normally doesn't have that big of an impact. Both teams agreed that this one might have been the difference between a competitive game and a blowout that had a running clock the entire second half.
"That hurt," Goodrich coach Tom Alward said. "Thomas was just trying to make a play. He reaches out. He wasn't close enough to the goal line, the ball gets tipped out and we don't come up with it. It could've been 7-0."
"It was a huge momentum boost," said Sargent, who also plays defense. "I think it got us rolling."
It was the first of numerous scoring opportunities that Goodrich couldn't finish. The Martians got inside Powers' 20-yard line on six of their eight possessions, rolling up 322 yards and 19 first downs. Five of Goodrich's drives lasted for at least 10 plays.
"We just didn't convert, we didn't finish, which is unusual for us," Alward said. "We've been doing that pretty much all year. Yeah, we probably had impressive yards for getting shut out, but that's not what counts; you've got to put points on the board."
Powers' offense was able to respond with big plays immediately after getting defensive stops. On the first play of five straight possessions in the first half, the Chargers averaged 42 yards.
One of those was the 48-yarder to Wiskur to make it 15-0 with 5:57 left in the first quarter. Peyton Beauchamp had a 61-yard catch following a stop on fourth down, then completed the drive by grabbing an 11-yard touchdown pass from Sargent to make it 22-0 on the first play of the second quarter.
A 26-yard touchdown pass to running back Reese Morgan made it 28-0 with 6:50 left in the second quarter. Powers forced a punt with 12 seconds left in the first half, enough time for Sargent to drop back and hit Wiskur with a 38-yard touchdown pass with three seconds on the clock.
"He made some plays tonight that make coaches look good," Buckel said of Sargent.
Nathan Ellis, who missed most of the season with a broken leg, was 22-for-36 for 266 yards for Goodrich. Hildebrand caught eight passes for 118 yards.