Déjà Vu All Over Again: Trojans Suffer Season-Ending Loss to DeWitt

Saturday, November 2, 2019, 11:15 am
Mark Meyer

East Lansing junior running back Alex Hosey races 62 yards for a second-quarter touchdown during Friday night’s district playoff game at Lynn C. Adams Stadium. (Photos by Raymond Holt)

DeWitt placekicker Nick Flegler has a knack for making big plays against East Lansing. Two of them in the span of about 12 months, to be exact.

For the second consecutive season, a Flegler field goal helped put an end to the Trojans’ football postseason hopes. DeWitt won the Division 3 district playoff game 21-13 Friday night at Lynn C. Adams Stadium and it was Flegler’s kick from 41 yards out with 9:10 to play in the fourth quarter that swung the momentum in the visitors’ favor.

Trailing 13-11 early in the fourth quarter, DeWitt (now 8-2 overall) had advanced the ball inside the East Lansing 25 yard line only to be stopped on a third down running play. Facing a fourth-and-six situation, DeWitt head coach Rob Zimmerman called on Flegler for his first field goal attempt of the season.

“He’s a national level soccer player and we’re fortunate to have him on the football team,” Zimmerman said. “He’s our long-distance kicker (including kickoffs), and we really needed him then.”

Aided by a slight breeze, Flegler left little doubt that his kick would clear the crossbar in the north end zone.

“Big play, no question,” Zimmerman said of Flegler, who last year as a freshman kicked the game-winning field goal in the Panthers’ district championship victory over East Lansing.

Controversial call gets overruled

Trailing by a point, East Lansing (7-3) quickly moved the ball into DeWitt territory on four pass plays from senior quarterback Sam Busch to junior wide receiver Andrel Anthony. But it was a disputed interception on a tipped pass to Anthony that enabled DeWitt to halt the drive at their 25 yard line.

East Lansing head coach Bill Feraco questions why an official’s call midway through the fourth quarter was overruled and ultimately gave possession of the ball to DeWitt.  

An official’s inadvertent whistle, after the ball had been tipped by Anthony (but was still in the air and had not hit the ground), indicated an incomplete pass and consequently would have stopped the ensuing interception return for a DeWitt touchdown. But after a lengthy discussion at midfield, the official ruling was that the pass had been intercepted before the whistle – and DeWitt was allowed to keep possession but was denied the six points on the return.

“It’s not the way I saw it, and you hate to see one official overrule another, but that didn’t cost us the game,” said East Lansing head coach Bill Feraco. “We gave away four points on safeties, and had difficulty controlling the middle of the field. Give credit to DeWitt: they’re a fine football team and deserved to win.”

The Panthers’ final score, on a 21-yard run by Andrew Debri with 2:13 to play, was sandwiched by two East Lansing possessions that failed to dent the Panther defense.

“Defensively we got stung a couple of times but overall did a good job of containing their athletes,” said Zimmerman, whose team will play St. Johns — a 17-7 winner over Mason — for the district championship next week.

DeWitt junior running back Blake Beachnau (9) eludes the grasp of an East Lansing defender while Jesse Vasquez (9) moves in to make the tackle. Beachnau gained 110 yards on 16 carries to lead DeWitt, which finished the game with 309 yards rushing on 58 carries.

DeWitt opened the game by driving 65 yards on eight plays to take a 7-0 lead with 8:20 remaining in the first quarter. East Lansing tied the score midway through the second quarter when junior running back Alex Hosey found an opening in the right side of the DeWitt defense and ran 62 yards for a touchdown. Emory Roberts’ extra point tied the game at 7.

Late in the first half the Trojan defense forced a turnover deep in their own territory when senior linebacker Jayth Joseph recovered a DeWitt fumble inside the 20 yard line. But on the very next series, East Lansing gave up a safety when in punt formation the snap sailed over Evan Sundermann and into the end zone. Sundermann’s only play was to kick the ball out of the end zone, rather than risk attempting a kick that could have been blocked.

“That (high snap) was a mistake that hurt us,” said Feraco, whose team also gave up a safety in the third quarter when it was called for holding in its own end zone. “In those situations we have to execute better than we did.”

East Lansing junior receiver Andrel Anthony catches a 65-yard scoring pass from Sam Busch to put the Trojans ahead 13-9 with 9:34 remaining in the third quarter.

Trojans take the lead on second long scoring play

Andrel Anthony Jr., who finished the season just shy of 1,000 yards receiving for the season, put a charge into the home crowd on the first possession of the third quarter when he sprinted past his DeWitt defender and caught a Busch pass in mid-flight down the right sideline for a 65-yard scoring play — his ninth touchdown of the season.

Anthony caught 10 passes for 157 yards and also returned four kickoffs for 79 yards. Busch completed 13 of 29 passing attempts for 177 yards and was intercepted twice.

On the defensive side, senior co-captain Jamar Mills led the Trojans with 22 tackles, 18 of which were solos.

Zimmerman made a special point to speak with Mills in the handshake line after the game.

“I told him we tried to keep the ball away from him the best we could,” Zimmerman said. “He is an outstanding football player.”

Despite the setback, Feraco told his players afterward that they had no reason to hang their heads.

“Obviously they're disappointed,” Feraco said, “but their names are etched in stone with the conference championship. That cannot be taken from them.”

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