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Todd Rose | Tristan Halfaday (24) of Daily Press Bark River returns a kickoff against the Houghton Gremlins on Saturday in Harris.

HARRIS – Opportunity has struck for Bark River-Harris, but it was Houghton who survived a savage final in a 21-20 triumph over the Broncos here on Saturday.

The Gremlins lined up in punt formation in the final nine seconds of this non-conference game before a high slam from the center passed over senior Reid Heathman’s header and sent the two teams scrambling. for the ball.

Heathman then retrieved the ball and brought it back to 50 when time ran out, allowing the Gremlins to claim their first road victory in two years.

“It got way too exciting at the end” Houghton coach Micah Stipech said. “My heart is still in my stomach. We are happy with the victory. Only, I would have liked it not to end like this. Although people are getting their money’s worth today.

Senior Houghton Blake Willey set the stage for the biting finish by intercepting a pass to the Broncos’ 34 with 65 seconds left.

The Broncos then used their last two timeouts, trying to hold the clock in hopes of getting their hands on the ball once more.

That, however, did not happen as the Gremlins ran out of time and improved their record to 3-1. The Broncos fell to 3-1 on a sunny, balmy afternoon.

Houghton tied the score at 20 on a 16-yard pass from junior Camden Markham to junior midfielder Gaborik Carlson, and senior Raymond Shaw provided the extra point with 2:36 left.

The Broncos started their final possession on their own 15 and moved the ball close to midfield before the interception.

“We had them on the ropes, but they had athletes playing games” said BR-H coach Al Stenberg. “The end was crazy, even though it was a good game. We played hard from start to finish. We told the children that they had nothing to say. We had fun playing and we like to play with good opponents.

BR-H took a 20-7 lead on a four-yard run over junior Vincent Martin with 3:47 left in the third quarter.

The Gremlins were on the move in their next possession until junior Corbin LaFave recovered a fumble on a botched pitch-out at the Broncos’ 35.

Houghton reduced his deficit to 20-14 on 28-yard Markham midfield to senior Kade Farrell with 8:43 left in the contest.

The Broncos ‘next possession resulted in an interception by Carlson in the Gremlins’ 40th, setting the stage for the winning drive.

“I am impressed with their team” says Stipech. “Their coaches came up with a great game plan. Our defense is what kept us in the game against Iron Mountain (in a 21-14 win on Sept. 11), and they played well again today. One thing is we haven’t had any breaks or rebounds even though we have to learn to play a full game.

The Broncos opened the scoring on Martin’s 38-yard dash along the left sideline with 6:59 left in the opening frame.

Houghton responded on his next possession, taking a 7-6 lead over senior Kaiden Zapolnik’s four-yard rush in the middle at 2:59.

BR-H regained the lead at 12-7 in senior Trevor Lippens’ eight-yard run around the left end 71 seconds after the start of the second stanza.

Houghton came within five yards of the end zone on his next possession before Broncos second student Ben Shiverski intercepted a pass in the end zone and brought it back to their 20s.

“Defensively we played pretty well” said Stenberg. “We had the physical advantage in the first half. Then they got it from the middle of the third quarter.

The Broncos then tried to increase their lead before Heathman offered an interception at the 31st of the Gremlins less than a minute before intermission.

BR-H rushed for 289 of his 299 yards. Martin led the way with 101 in 14 carries, and senior Trevor Lippens ran 13 times for 89. Sophomore Ethan Ives had 2 of 10 passes for 10 yards and four interceptions.

Houghton finished with 255 yards. Zapolnik rushed 25 times for 96, and Markham completed 7 of 14 jumps for 117.

The Broncos host Iron Mountain in a WestPAC Conference Iron Division competition on Friday. The Gremlins host Hancock in the Copper Bowl on Friday.

“We can’t wait to play them” said Stenberg. “They have a good program and a good coaching staff.”

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