Busch Rallies Trojans to Overtime Thriller Over Portage Northern

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Saturday, September 21, 2019, 6:55 am
Mark Meyer

East Lansing junior receiver Tyler Washington (30) holds onto the ball to score on a 38-yard pass from quarterback Sam Busch, as Portage Northern defender Jaleel Williams (12) reaches in vain. East Lansing won 35-28 in overtime to improve its record to 3-1. (Photos by Raymond Holt)

Sam Busch had experienced the highs and lows, ups and downs and over-and-outs throughout 48 minutes of a grueling high school football game Friday night in East Lansing.

The Trojans’ senior quarterback had completed 16 of 31 passes for 221 yards and one touchdown. He’d run for 18 more yards, and on one of those runs in the fourth quarter he took a punishing hit to his left (throwing) arm that would have sent many a quarterback running for cover on the sidelines.

Instead, he completed a 53-yard pass on the very next play to help set up East Lansing’s game-tying touchdown against Portage Northern with just over four minutes to play.

Tied at 28 and heading to overtime, East Lansing (now 3-1) had the first possession. A one-yard gain by Busch, coupled with a personal foul on the same play pushed the ball back to the 19-yard-line. It was at that point – nearly three hours after Portage Northern’s Cory Cunningham returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown – that Busch executed a scoring play called “Baldwin Black” that led to the Trojans’ 35-28 overtime victory.

“We work on it every week in practice, and it’s been open every single time,” said Busch. “We knew if we got into the right situation that we could make it work in a game.”

By shifting 6-foot-7 left tackle Ethan Boyd into a wideout position on the near side of the field, the play naturally drew the defense’s attention. Little did the Huskies notice that senior tight end Jayth Joseph (who lined up on the right side of the line) had slipped quietly into the defensive backfield uncovered, and wide open, to carefully cradle Busch’s scoring pass.

‘An improbable game’

“It was an improbable game, just the ebb and flow of things,” said East Lansing head coach Bill Feraco,” but we hung in there, and you never can tell when someone is going to make a play.”

Sam Busch (18) scrambles for running room while looking for an open receiver.

There were any number of key plays (and players) for the Trojans in Week 4:

  • Junior receiver Tyler Washington made a remarkable reception on a 38-yard scoring pass from Busch late in the second quarter;
  • Sophomore Mason Woods (three catches, 71 yards) was the recipient of the aforementioned 53-yard hookup from Busch that helped set up Asher Gregory’s eight-yard rushing touchdown that knotted the game at 28 with 4:16 to play;
  • Sophomore defensive back Brevin Jackson nullified two Huskie pass play attempts in the fourth quarter with well-timed breakups;
  • Sophomore defensive back Ambrose Wilson (15 tackles), and senior linebackers Jamar Mills (12 tackles) and T’Senre Gray (11 tackles) led the defensive surge that prevented Northern from regaining the lead in the fourth quarter and ultimately shut down the Huskies on four plays in overtime.

In the meantime, East Lansing junior wide receiver Andrel Anthony kept the Huskie defenders back on their heels with nine receptions for 74 yards and a couple of near misses on throws that Busch admitted he “might have been a bit amped up on.”

“No doubt, our guys were open,” Busch said, “and it’s my job to get them the ball. Thankfully our defensive held strong and gave us a chance to win it in overtime.”

Trojan linebacker Jamar Mills (3) closes in on Northern running back Tyler Amos during the first half of Friday's game in East Lansing.

For Mills, the senior co-captain (along with Busch and Joseph) who scored on touchdown runs of one and five yards in the first half, it was all about extra effort.

“We just had to have faith in our defense,” said the 5-foot-11, 229-pound Mills, when asked about how to keep Northern from tying the game in overtime. “Everybody doing they’re one-eleven. I have faith in my guys, they have faith in me.”

Trojans’ defense bent but didn’t break

Northern had an excellent chance to win the game in regulation but came up short when senior placekicker Cam Adams missed a 27-yard field goal wide right with :01.3 remaining.

“We battled back from adversity early when we were struggling to run the football,” said Northern head coach Pete Schermerhorn, whose team suffered its first loss of the season. “We were fortunate to make some plays through the air that kept us in the game in the first half.”

After opening the first half with his kickoff return, Northern’s Cunningham closed out the scoring in the first half (the teams were tied at 21) by hauling in a 60-yard pass from quarterback Pete Henegar with :02.7 left on the clock. A mere two plays after Washington’s catch and Emory Roberts had put East Lansing ahead 21-14.

Trojan sophomore defender Jaden Patterson (23) engages Huskie running back Tyler Amos (3) while teammate T'Senre Gray (2) moves in to assist.

“(In the second half) we had some opportunities and we missed some opportunities,” Schermerhorn said. “You can’t do that against a quality team like East Lansing. (Cam Adams) is a very good kicker, a four-year varsity player for us, and he has our complete trust in a situation like that.”

For Busch, the stinging sensation from the fourth-quarter hit had been washed away by the comeback victory.

“Huge win,” said the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Busch, who finished the game 17-of-32 passing for 240 yards and two touchdowns, “especially after losing our first game at home like we did. But we needed this going into next week against DeWitt.”

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