The Saginaw Nouvel CC football team's incredible playoff run came to an abrupt end following a heartbreaking 42-21 loss to Ottawa Lake Whiteford H.S. in the MHSAA Div-8 state championship game at Ford Field in downtown Detroit Friday afternoon.
Ottawa Lake grabbed momentum right from the start, recovering an onside kick on the opening kickoff, marching down field to take a 6-0 lead with 11:09 left in the opening quarter following a 37-yard TD run by senior QB Thomas Eitniear as the 2-point conversion attempt failed.
The Panthers answered with a drive deep into Bobcats' territory, set up by a 39-yard pass completion from Nouvel senior QB Tate Hausbeck to senior WR Kenny Kujawa, however, a fumble on the 11-yard line would give Ottawa Lake the ball back, advancing into NCC territory on a 70-yard run by Eitniear, before senior RB Logan Murphy scored on a 1-yard rushing TD with 5:27 left in the first quarter, giving Ottawa Lake a 12-0 lead after another failed 2-point try.
After stopping NCC on fourth down, Ottawa Lake took over on its own 29-yard line, before Murphy broke free for a 71-yard rushing TD as Eitniear carried in the 2-point conversion for a 20-0 Bobcat lead with 1:27 left in the first quarter.
Ottawa Lake then took over after forcing an NCC punt, marching down field, taking up half of the second quarter on power runs, five and six yards at a time, behind a huge offensive line, before Eitniear eventually scored on a 6-yard rushing TD, while Murphy carried in the 2-point conversion for a 28-0 lead with 4:56 left in the first half.
After trading possessions, the Panthers showed some life, scoring when Hausbeck hit Kujawa for a 28-yard passing TD, as junior Jacob Burr kicked the extra point to cut into the Bobcat lead 28-7 with 2:56 left in the half.
Ottawa Lake scored on a questionable TD to end the half when Eitniear dove for the pylon as time expired, and after looking at the replay on the giant Ford Field jumbo-tron, it had appeared his knee was down, however, the referee ruled it a touchdown (and with no replay in H.S. Football) Ottawa Lake took a 34-7 lead into halftime after the 2-point try failed.
Nouvel adjusted well at halftime, outscoring Ottawa Lake 14-8 in the second half, while holding the powerful Bobcat offense to just one second half TD.
NCC junior Jimmy Benkert recovered a fumble early in the second half and Kujawa recovered another fumble later, as the two teams traded possessions throughout the third quarter, before Murphy scored his teams only second half points on a 2-yard rushing TD as Hunter Lake converted the 2-point try for a 42-7 Bobcat lead with 6:26 left in the game.
Hausbeck showed the state of Michigan why he is the best QB in the state on the next drive, hitting senior WR Peter Snyder for a 27-yard pass, then capping the drive with a 16-yard passing TD to Kujawa, as Burr kicked the extra point to make it a 42-14 game with 4:00 to play.
The Panthers showed its resilience when senior linebacker Alex Wrobel forced a fumble which wa recovered by senior Jeffrey Mann, before junior RB Josh Kuligowski broke free for a 34-yard rushing TD as Burr kicked the extra point to make it a 42-21 game with 30-seconds left in the game.
Eitniear led the Bobcats with 140 rushing yards and 3-TD's, while Murphy added 128 yards and 3-TD's as well.
Hausbeck, Nouvel's first team All-State Quarterback, was 11 for 26 while throwing for 175-passing yards with 2-TD's and another 86-rushing yards for the Panthers, bringing his season passing totals to 2,552 yards, which rank's him among Michigan's elite quarterbacks with a guaranteed spot in the MHSAA record books following one of the greatest passing seasons in the history of MHSAA football.
Kujawa led all NCC receivers with 4 catches for 91-receiving yards and 2-TD receptions, along with 10-tackles, 1-sack, and 1-fumble recovery on defense.
Kuligowski finished with 2 carries for 34-rushing yards and 1-TD, while Snyder finished with 101-all purpose yards with 19-rushing yards, while hauling in 3-catches for another 82-yards, adding 7-tackles on defense.
Wrobel led the defense with 14-tackles and 1-forced fumble, bringing the first team All-State linebacker's season total to 160-tackles, as junior Michael Ehlman added 8-tackles on defense.