GRAYLING — Despite school being closed for contact tracing due to COVID-19, the Grayling football team’s Division 6 district final in Boyne City was still on as scheduled as of Friday morning.
Several schools have had to cancel playoff football games each week as the virus surges unchecked, but the Vikings are hoping that they can avoid having to forfeit Saturday’s contest with the Ramblers.
Both teams are on a roll, with the Vikings on a four-game winning streak that has improved their record to 5-3 with the Ramblers have won five in a rwo for a 6-2 record.
Grayling won its only district title back in 2005, but is only three years removed from its last playoff appearance in 2017, when the Vikings lost, 54-8, to Reed City.
Although this is their first meeting this season, the two have played during the regular season on a regular basis and not much has changed with either’s style in the interim.
“We know what each other likes to do,” Grayling head coach Eric Tunney said. “Obviously, there has been personnel changes over the years, so along with that comes change.
“(Boyne) is always a solid team. They are very disciplined, and they play hard. They took it to us last year, and rightfully so. After watching the film again, we did not play well, did not coach well.
“I think a lot of those things have been addressed this year. They’re rolling, and we’re rolling, so I think it will be an exciting game.”
Boyne punched its ticket into the district final with a 29-28 thriller over Glen Lake last Friday night, while the Vikings rolled to a shocking, 49-14 upset over Manistee.
The Ramblers were down three starters because of coronavirus quarantine for the game against Glen Lake in Maple City. The Lakers reached the state finals a year ago.
Grayling’s defense looks to key on Rambler running back Bobby Hoth, who rushed for 180 yards and four touchdowns against the Lakers. The Ramblers added 90 yards on special teams and accumulated 270 all-purpose yards, with 249 yards rushing on 41 attempts.
“They like to feed (Hoth) the ball,” Tunney said. “He’s quick, he’s shifty. He gets the edge and (he’s) gone. We’ll have to try to contain him. They have a couple other backs that can run as well, and we’ll have to be real disciplined on defense.
“(Boyne) runs some misdirection stuff that’s burned teams it looks like on film. Just being disciplined, and playing our brand of football. We’ve done a good job the last couple of weeks. Hopefully we can continue that on Saturday.”
Although the Ramblers were without their starting quarterback because of COVID quarantine, Tunney expects to see him under center when the two teams play Saturday.
He added that either quarterback is capable of throwing the ball.
“They want to run the ball, catch you falling asleep and then throw it up,” Tunney added. “Hopefully, our kids will be ready for it and we can shut the run down, and if they throw the pass we can get some interceptions.
“Defensively, they’re tough. It’s similar interior boxes as last week (against Manistee).
“Coverage is definitely different, but they have some tough kids up front. Their strong suit is their D-line. But they have some good linebackers that flow hard.
They’re downhill, so their run defense is their strength, and our run offense is our strength.
“Something’s got to give, or it’s a stalemate. We have to take some shots down the field. We have some kids that can go up and make a play. It’ll be a fun game, I think. I’m excited.”
Everyone is keeping their fingers crossed that the game will be a go.