GRAYLING – A chance to finish the regular season at .500, and take a two-game winning streak into the playoffs, is in front of the Grayling football team Friday night when it travels to West Branch for a Northern Michigan Football Conference-Legends A with Ogemaw Heights.
The Vikings ended a three-game losing streak last week with a dominating 41-6 victory over Cheboygan, improving their record to 2-3 overall and 1-3 in the conference.
Conversely, the Falcons are coming off a 35-14 loss to Traverse City St. Francis last week that snapped their two-game losing streak and dropped their record to 3-2 and 2-2 in conference.
It was a tie game, 14-14 going into the fourth quarter when the Gladiators exploded for three unanswered touchdowns, while limiting the Falcons to just one first down on three straight possessions.
Ogemaw enjoyed a decided advantage in time of possession, controlling the ball for 31:17 minutes. But the Falcons turned the ball over four times against the Gladiators defense, including three intercepted passes.
After last week’s victory, the Vikings have shown a little more energy in practice. But they recognize that the Falcons present an altogether different challenge than Cheboygan did.
The Falcons are more of an offensive threat than the Chiefs, and have the capability on defense to make life miserable for Grayling’s offense.
“Ogemaw is a quality opponent, and I think we’re ready to see where at, and how we measure up,” Grayling head coach Eric Tunney said. “They have some big boys, both offensively and defensively.
“I think they want to run the ball, but they have a couple good receivers that can catch. So, they’ll throw it if they must. They had a few costly turnovers against St. Francis last week that kind of cos them the game I thought.
“They’re a playoff-type team, so I think it will be a big challenge for us. We’ll find out what we’re made out of.”
Offensively, the Falcons run with a tight end and a full house backfield. They like to pound the ball with its running game.
Grayling is getting rather used to that offensive approach, having seen it from Kingsley and Cheboygan the last two weeks.
“We kind of got a dose of that, which is good,” Tunney said. “But then they also throw in the passing element. (The key is) just not getting sucked in on the run, not getting lulled to sleep and then have them hit a big play on a pass is what one of our focuses will be.
“Their quarterback likes to run the ball, too, and he’s a big, strong, thick kid. We’ll have our hands full on defense, that’s for sure.”
Defensively, the Falcons like to pack the box, take away the run first and make you make plays on the perimeter.
Grayling will take what the Falcons give them, but will still try to run the ball as best they can, but the Vikings have some guys out on the edge who can make some plays, too.
No question Hunter Ventline (QB) and David Millikin (RB) are a potent one-two punch for the Vikings. But the Vikings have other weapons as well.
“We have some good receivers on the edge, too,” Tunney said. “We’ll see how we’re feeling. But we made some big plays last week, and hopefully we can get some more this week.”
A lot is on the line for the Vikings this week, including positioning for the playoffs.
“We ran some numbers, and I believe if we win, we would host for the first playoff game,” Tunney said. “That’s a pretty big incentive right there. Not to mention Ogemaw is in our league, and it’ll affect placement.”
That’s all well and good, but the Vikings just want to focus on the game, play well and let the scoreboard take care of itself.
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