Chieftains get first undfeated season since 1996Published 10:55pm Friday, October 19, 2012
Led by a stingy defense and an explosive offense, the Dowagiac football team completed its first undefeated regular season since 1996 with a 43-0 Wolverine Conference win over visiting Otsego Friday.
The No. 5-ranked Chieftains (9-0) scored on the ground and through the air as it used its balanced attack to roll up 367 yards in total offense.
Dowagiac coach Mike Stanger, who did not want to talk about the undefeated season prior to the game, was plenty proud of his squad after they had completed the job.
“It means a lot to these guys. They have worked hard for four years. The juniors and the seniors have worked really hard and put in a ton of time,” Stanger said. “When you look at the tradition of Dowagiac football in southwest Michigan or throughout all of Michigan, to be one of the five teams to go undefeated in over 115 years just means a ton.
“There are a ton of story lines. Coach (Kyle) Belew and coach (Brent) Hatch played on undefeated teams. Coach (Kyle) Johnson’s grandfather played on the one in 1959.”
The Bulldogs (6-3) got off to a terrible start, turning the ball over on its first offensive series and giving Dowagiac a short field to work with.
Shane Bevins recovered the ball at Otsego’s 33-yard line and the Chieftains needed just five plays to take a 7-0 lead as Brett Scanlon capped off the drive with a 2-yard run.
After a three-and-out for the Bulldogs on their next possession, Dowagiac took advantage of a poor punt to start at the Otsego 41-yard line. Seven plays later, it was 13-0 as D.J. Hunt scored on a 4-yard run. The extra point attempt was no good as the ball rolled back to holder Todd McIntyre, who somehow got it up on the tee, but Scanlon was unable to convert.
The lead reached 16-0 early in the second quarter on a 27-yard Scanlon field goal, his sixth of the season.
Otsego was finally able to get on the Dowagiac side of the field on its ensuing possession, but the Bulldogs only got to the 43-yard line before having to give up the ball once again.
Dowagiac ended any thoughts of an Otsego upset when Cal Cox connected with Dontel Highsmith for a 16-yard touchdown, which extended the Chieftains’ lead to 23-0 with just over four minutes to play in the opening half.
Dowagiac wasn’t done scoring just yet as Derek Stark picked off a Mitchell Keil pass at the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line and the Chieftains scored six plays later when Scanlon hit Brendon Murray with a 27-yard touchdown pass to make it 30-0 at halftime.
It didn’t take long to establish a running clock as Dowagiac started the second half with the ball and marched 75 yards in eight plays to make it 37-0 on a Cox to Murray 16-yard touchdown toss. The Chieftains got a 32-yard run by McIntyre and a 13-yard run by Murray in the drive to set up the score.
Dowagiac’s final touchdown was a 6-yard McIntyre run with 4:53 to play in the third quarter. The extra point failed when the snap hit McIntyre in the helmet as he appeared to be communicating with Scanlon.
McIntyre led the Chieftains with 82 yards on nine carries, while Murray added 77 yards on seven totes. Cox and Scanlon combined to go 6-of-11 for 119 yards and three touchdowns.
Otsego, which had only 21 yards of total offense in the second half, finished with 62 yards of offense.
Dowagiac’s defense was led by Justin Minor with five tackles and Jeremy Zeilke with four tackles and a sack. The Chieftains forced three turnovers. Stark had an interception with Bevins and Brody Froehlich recovering fumbles.
“They played very good,” Stanger said of his defense. “The kids have played good all year. The defense has been prepared and they played well. They were motivated, they were fired up and they were focused. They (Otsego) are either going to move the ball on the dive or the veer or else they are going to get wide on you. If they can’t do that, then they are very limited to what they can do. It’s a little bit like the full-house Wing-T. If you can stop the run there’s really not a Plan B.”
Otsego 0 0 0 0 – 0
Dowagiac 13 17 13 0 – 43
D – Brett Scanlon 2 run (Scanlon kick)
D – DJ Hunt 4 run (kick failed)
D – Scanlon 27 field goal
D – Dontel Highsmith 16 pass from Cal Cox (Scanlon kick)
D – Brendon Murray 27 pass from Scanlon (Scanlon kick)
D – Murray 16 pass from Cox (Scanlon kick)
D – Todd McIntyre 6 run (kick failed)