Viking gridders look to bounce back against Benzie Central

Could be a potential playoff matchup

99

GRAYLING – Grayling’s football team looks to bounce back from last week’s loss to state powerhouse Traverse City St. Francis this Friday night hosting Benzie Central in the Northern Michigan Football League Legends Division for Homecoming.

The Vikings opened the season with a convincing 43-0 shut out over Kalkaska and scored two early touchdowns against the Gladiators to take a quick 14-0 lead.

St. Francis, however, didn’t cotton to the idea of dropping its second straight game to start the season and came storming back, pulling away in the second half for a 42-20 victory to improve to 1-1 in the league, and overall.

Despite the loss, Vikings’ coach Eric Tunney came away with a good feeling about his team and expects the Vikings to put it behind them and focus on tackling the Huskies.

Benzie rebounded from a 20-7 loss to Ogemaw Heights in its season opener with a 34-14 win over Cheboygan at home last week, improving to 1-1 in the conference and overall.

It was the consistent performance of their offensive line that paved the way for the Huskies.

Things started out badly for the Huskies, when the Chiefs powered down the field on their first possession into the red zone before the Huskies forced a fumble that they recovered.

One play later, the Huskies fumbled the ball back to the Chiefs. This time, Cheboygan was more successful, punching in the first touchdown to take an 8-0 lead.

After that, it was all Benzie Central.

Establishing the run once they got the ball back, the Huskies scored 20 unanswered points — including a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ike Koscielowski to Seth Wilkinson — for a 20-8 halftime lead.

Ross straightened out a sputtering offense early in the second half with a 39-yard touchdown run and the Chiefs never presented a serious threat the rest of the way.

“They’re going to test us, and make sure we’re disciplined,” Tunney said. “If we are, I think we can hold our own. If we’re not, then they’re going to put some points on the board.

“We’re not sure what we’ll see from their defense, but we’re practicing against multiple fronts. We’ll find out what they’re going to try to throw at us. I think they like to try and confuse (you) on both sides of the ball.

“We just have to be disciplined and have the kids in the right positions to do their job.”

Ross was the bell cow for the Huskie last week, rushing for 155 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. The passing game only accounted for 35 yards, but Koscielowski completed an efficient four of five attempts.

“They have a couple nice looking skill kids,” Tunney said. “They like to spread you out and run the ball. They have a quarterback that has some good speed. He doesn’t throw a ton, but when he does, they seem to be good balls.

“And they have two good running backs that can make a kid look silly it we don’t do our job. They’re going to stress trying to get kids open in space.”

He’s not positive of what the Vikings will see, Tunney says that in the past the Huskies have been an attacking defense and try to employ man-to-man coverage in the secondary.

Benzie also likes to put pressure on the quarterback and force the opposition into making bad decisions.

“Hopefully, we can get the running game going and established,” Tunney said. “That will open up some things in the passing game.”

Practice has gone well this week, Tunney said.

“You kind of never know what you’re going to get after a loss,” Tunney said. “But these kids … all they know is how to work hard. The bumps and bruises hurt a little more after a loss, but the kids have attacked everything we’ve thrown at them this week.

“I think we’ve had one of our better weeks of practice, to be honest, despite the weather and cooler temps, plus it’s Homecoming. But we don’t have quite the distractions we normally would.”

Benzie Central is in the Vikings’ district for the playoffs, so the game could be a preview for the post-season.