By: Wm. Michael Dixon
Tribune Recorder Leader
The Deckerville Eagles hopped on the bus Saturday morning to travel over to Portland (west of Lansing) to take on the Portland St. Patrick Shamrocks in the Division 2 Region 3 Eight-Man Football Finals. The Shamrocks broke the ice with a quick first quarter touchdown and PAT. Deckerville answered shortly after with their own score on a Dylan Ball ten-yard run. Garza found Logan Shanks in the end zone for the conversion to give Deckerville a one-point lead.
The Eagles wasted no time in earning their next score. Hunter Garza broke free for an 80-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a seven-point lead with three minutes left in the first. The conversion attempt failed, and the Eagles pinned the Shamrocks down by the other end zone with a well-placed kickoff.
The Shamrocks got themselves into even more trouble with a slew of false starts and found themselves backed up against the end zone before turning it over to give the Eagles another shot at the end zone before the end of the first. A 23-yard run from Dylan Ball lands Deckerville their third touchdown of the contest with just seconds to go in the first quarter. Garza found David Shanks in the end zone for the conversion to give Deckerville a commanding 22-7 lead at the end of the first. The Shamrocks worked their way downfield before eventually finding their way into the end zone and kicking the PAT to cut the margin to eight points with under ten minutes remaining in the half. The Eagles worked their way back down field and managed to score on a short screen pass from Garza to Parker Merriman. Merriman juked three Shamrocks to find the end zone and grow Deckerville’s lead to fourteen points. The conversion failed giving Deckerville a 28-14 lead with time ticking down in the first half. The Shamrocks had one more scoring drive to try and bring things back before the end of the first half, and after two tackles for a loss by the Eagle defense the Shamrocks were facing a 3rd and 35 as time expired. The Shamrocks got the pass off, but it was not enough for the first down let alone the touchdown, and the Eagles kept their lead going into the second half.
The Shamrocks drew first blood in the second half, getting the score with a little under ten minutes remaining in the third. The Eagles marched the ball back down the field on a couple of long Hunter Garza runs. Garza ran the ball in from six yards out for the last Eagle touchdown of the game. The Eagles failed on the conversion and grew their lead back to fourteen, 34-20. There was still plenty of football to be played with the Shamrocks marching the ball back down the field for the touchdown to shrink the deficit to eight. The Shamrocks just barely kept the Eagles out of the end zone again, forcing a turnover on downs inside the 30-yard line.
The Eagles held an eight-point lead for most of the fourth quarter, keeping the Shamrocks out of the
end zone for eight minutes before they were finally able to break through and cut the margin to just two. The Shamrocks were forced to go for two and a pass right up the middle of the field was broken up by Freshman Brandon Salowitz to save the conversion and help propel Deckerville to a Regional Championship.
With under four minutes left in the game, the Eagles switched to clock management mode, fighting for a first down and then taking a knee to burn the rest of the clock. The Shamrocks took a timeout and were able to stop the Eagles short of the first down and took possession for the last time of the game with a minute left in the game. The Shamrocks took a snap from the 47-yard line with three yards to go for the first down and 22 seconds left in the contest and let the ball fly down the right sideline but it fell incomplete and the Eagles retook posession with 15 seconds left to play, they took a knee.
The Eagles took the win 34-32. Hunter Garza was the leading rusher in the contest, running for 310 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Garza also went 13 for 14 in the air for 100 yards and a touchdown. Dylan Ball had 106 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Parker Merriman had five catches for 31 yards and a touchdown. Logan Shanks had three catches for 35 yards and two two-point conversions. Logan Martin had one catch for twenty yards and David Shanks had two catches for eleven.
The Eagles improved to 9-2 with the win over the Shamrocks and now sit just one game away from the state finals. The Eagles will have their work cut out for them when they travel down to Adrian this Saturday at 1:00 p.m. to face off with the Adrian Lenawee Christian Cougars at Cougar Field (111 Wolf Creek Highway, Adrian MI 49221). Tickets must be purchased ahead of time on gofan.co (search for Deckerville) and a printed off ticket or a smart phone to display your ticket is required for entry.