Tecumseh falls to Harper Creek in regional final
There weren’t a lot of mistakes made by Tecumseh’s varsity football team in the Division 3 regional final at Battle Creek Harper Creek on Friday, Nov. 9, but the ones made cost the Indians the championship and ended their season.
Harper Creek connected on a three-point field goal with 5:08 left in the game and denied the Indians another point to beat Tecumseh 26-24 for the regional title.
“I don’t think we played our best football game tonight,” said Tecumseh head coach Al Romano. “We had a couple turnovers and a couple of miscues here and there and a couple of critical penalties. It just wasn’t our night.”
Tecumseh quarterback Ben Dreslinski turned over the ball on a pass interception on the Indians first offensive drive but the Beavers failed to capitalize against a strong Tecumseh defense.
Tecumseh’s Spencer Adams went back for a punt reception with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter but the ball went through his hands, bounced in front of him and was recovered by Harper Creek on Tecumseh’s 35-yard line. The Beavers chewed up the artificial turf until having Kasey Carson hit the end zone on a 36-yard pass reception for the first touchdown of the game. The Beavers took a 7-0 lead with a good Point After Touchdown (PAT) kick.
Casey Hunt caught a long pass from Dreslinski to set the ball on the Beavers’ nine-yard line with 1:30 remaining in the opening quarter. Harper Creek built a brick wall in front of the end zone so the Indians opted for a three-point field goal by Hunt to end the quarter down 7-3.
Dreslinski had the ball stripped from his hands when scrambling in the backfield in the second quarter and the Beavers were quick to recover. However, once again the strong defensive efforts by the Indians forced them to punt the ball.
A 59-yard breakaway run by John Terry ended in the end zone to give Tecumseh a 9-7 lead with 7:55 left in the second quarter. Hunt added a point on the PAT and the Indians were up by three (10-7).
A 40-yard run on a quarterback keeper set Tecumseh up on the Beavers’ 11-yard line with 4:20 left in the first half. On the following first down, Dreslinski fumbled the ball but recovered it back on the 18-yard line. Tecumseh completed the drive with Dreslinski throwing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Terry to give Tecumseh a 16-7 advantage. Hunt connected on the PAT and Tecumseh held a 17-7 lead with 3:19 remaining on the clock in the first half.
Only one minute and 18 seconds later, Harper Creek was in the end zone again with Carson finding a wide-open hole for a 37-yard touchdown run. A good PAT kick by Alec Fisher had the Beavers down 17-14 to end the first half.
Four minutes into the third quarter the Indians scored again. Dreslinski was working on a third down and seven-yard play on the Beaver’s 23-yard line and passed to the end zone into the hands of Eric Eldred. A good Pat kick by Hunt gave the Indians a 24-14 lead but that was all the points that Tecumseh would put on the board with 16:07 remaining in the game.
The Beavers were down to a fourth and one-yard situation on Tecumseh’s 23-yard line and had Carson cut past Nick Coffin and Preston Pelham and plow his way over Terry for a touchdown. A good PAT kick by Fisher made it a 24-21 game with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
The Beavers punted the ball to Tecumseh with 8:45 left in the game and it bounced back to Tecumseh’s four-yard line.
After an incomplete pass, Dreslinski backed into the end zone looking to pass again but was sacked for a safety by the Beavers’ Zach Testolin. With the score now at 24-23, Harper Creek received possession on the play and finished the offensive drive with a three-point field goal to end all scoring with 5:08 left in the game.
The Indians marched up the field on their ensuing possession for a fourth down and one-yard play on the Beavers’ 31-yard line. But the game was essentially over after TJ Tirado broke through the Indians’ offensive line and stuck Terry right after the handoff for a loss of yards, with 2:58 remaining in the regional final.
The Beavers ran the ball for three first downs and used up the rest of the time on the game clock.
Tecumseh’s coach told his boys in the huddle after the game to keep their heads up because they had nothing to be ashamed of.
“I’m proud of you,” said Romano. “We finished hard and played hard all night.”
He made no excuses. Pointed no fingers and said it just wasn’t meant to be.
“When you look back on it and watch the film you’ll see some things,” he said. “You know, we all screwed up. I screwed up... One play didn’t end this game.”
Tecumseh totaled 566 yards on offense while Harper Creek totaled 368.
Pelham led the Indians defense with 11 tackles.
Tecumseh defensive coordinator Todd Thieken agreed the players should hold their heads high despite the loss.
“I’m just so proud of our kids,” he said. “They played so hard this year. From where they were a year ago, to be here tonight and have a chance right at the end of the game to win it. It was from playing hard on both sides of the ball.”
The players closed the season with the Indian fight song on the field.