Gabriel Richard advances to state semifinals with 16-6 win over River Rouge
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
That includes a River Rouge team that was averaging nearly 50 points per game while giving up less than six when it came to FGR Saturday.
Unfazed, the Fighting Irish used strong defensive play and a consistent offensive attack while dispatching the Panthers, 16-6 at home.
“They’ve got great nerves,” Lemons said. “They don’t get shook about anything. A lot of these guys have been on varsity three, four years. It takes a lot to get to them.”
The win gives Gabriel Richard its first regional title in school history. The Irish will play Portland next Saturday in the state semifinal, with a berth in the Division 5 state title game Nov. 24 at Ford Field on the line. Portland beat the top-ranked team in Division 5, Flint Powers Catholic, 45-28 on Friday.
The site for Saturday’s semifinal game will be announced Sunday.
For the Irish veterans, Saturday’s win brought back memories of two years ago. In a 2010 regional title game, the Irish led in the final minute against Olivet, before giving up the go-ahead touchdown in a 21-18 loss.
“It’s a long time coming,” defensive lineman Austin Hundley said. “Two years ago we had a chance and we blew it at the last second. Now the fact that we actually did it, it’s amazing. I thought this day would never come.”
Hundley leads an Irish defensive group that came into the game having given up no points in two playoff wins.
Against River Rouge, the defense gave up only one touchdown, when River Rouge’s Dontez Blackshear reached over a Gabriel Richard defender from behind, snatched the ball and scampered for a 65-yard touchdown.
That play aside, the Irish gave up less than 200 total yards, and picked off River Rouge quarterback Angelo Whittis three times.
“We’ve been through a lot of teams that have really good offenses per say,” Hundley said. “But then we made just big changes. We stepped up on the D line and made plays instead of just leaving it to the linebackers. Our athleticism, our hard work just goes into that.”
On offense, FGR featured an attack that was methodical and consistent all game, starting with an opening drive that went 59 yards and took nearly 10 minutes off the clock before resulting in a field goal.
Quarterback Joe Kendzicky finished 6-for-11 for 72 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Both of his touchdown passes went to Stevie Tracy, who also had two interceptions and a 27-yard field goal.
Ashton Hundley led the Gabriel Richard rushing attack with 61 yards.
After its opening field goal, River Rouge notched its lone touchdown to take the lead. FGR answered with a 56-yard touchdown drive and took a three-point lead into halftime.
In the second half, the Irish notched two interceptions and made two fourth-down stops to keep River Rouge off the board.
“It’s literally one of the best feelings knowing that you put enough work in and you’re going to get something out of it,” Lemons said. “They’ve been scoring a ton of points, but our defense has just been solid all playoffs.
Now, the Irish are hoping that hard work can take them to one more place they've never been before: a state title game at Ford Field.
“I feel like I could cry, I could cry like any second right now,” Austin Hundley said. “I’m so excited. I’m this close to getting to the state final. I’m just overjoyed.”