Jayhawks edge past Michigan Center in thriller, head to Manchester to determine
Cascades Conference champ
By Mike Moore
Michigan Center – With roughly 30 seconds to play in the first half, Noah Hancock
picked himself up off the turf, a badly twisted knee preventing him from getting to the
sideline in any sort of quick matter, or without assistance.
With exactly 30.3 seconds to play in regulation, Hancock picked a fumble off the turf, a
host of defenders preventing him from running, in any matter at all.
So he dove.
And with that, the Vandercook Lake football team is 7-0 for the first time since 1970.
“Another boring game. Another boring win,” Vandercook coach Steve Wolvin said with
a rye smile moments after his guys blocked a last-second field goal and prevailed with a
30-27 victory at Michigan Center Friday night.
Hancock, who was injured at the end of the first half, picked up his own fumble in the
waning seconds of regulation and scored on an 8-yard touchdown run to put Vandercook
up for good.
Some 28 seconds later the Jayhawks blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt to preserve the
“I don’t think we’ve practiced as bad as we played in the first half,” Wolvin said of his
team, which trailed 14-6 at the break and hadn’t done much at all offensively.
After a scoreless first quarter, Michigan Center got on the board less than two minutes
into the second.
Facing a fourth down, Tavian Gaddy threw a fade route to Parker McBride.
Vandercook defensive back Noah Cooper and McBride deflected the ball at the same
time, but McBride was able to pull in the deflection at the 1-yard line and back step into
the end zone.
Cooper wouldn’t wait long to make up for the play, though, taking the ensuing kick off
back 90 yards for a touchdown.
The extra point was blocked and Vandercook trailed 7-6 after each team scored in a 13-
And nobody would score again until the final moments of the half.
Shortly after Dawson Brown returned a Vandercook punt 50 yards to the 31-yard line,
Gaddy hit Jacob Rankin on a 10-yard strike with just 45 seconds remaining for a 14-6
Vandercook got the ball back, but on the first offensive play, Hancock was twisted
down, injuring his right knee in the process and leaving some doubt if he would
return or not.
Backup quarterback Chase Pierce finished the first half with a kneel down.
“We made a decision at halftime that all we were going to do is run the ball,” Wolvin
said. Vandercook had three rushing yards at that point. “Our guys imposed their will, and
we got the ball in the end zone a few times.”
After not playing a single offensive snap the entire first half due to a broken thumb and
cast, Malik Wilks joined the offense in the third quarter and had an immediate impact on
the first drive.
He had 20 yards rushing on two carries, was the lead blocker on Zaithon Allen’s 9-yard
run with 4:46 to play in the third, and then scored the 2-point conversion that tied the
game at 14-14.
“When he’s motivated and does his thing, he’s a spark,” Wolvin said of Wilks. “He lights
a fire. He acted like he didn’t have a cast on. He ran like a bull, as he always does.”
Allen’s score was the first of five consecutive possessions the two teams reached the end
Shawn Burch put Michigan Center back on top 21-14 when he hauled in a 6-yard pass
from Gaddy with 2:07 to play in the third.
Some four minutes later, Allen was back in the end zone, scoring on 4-yard run, and
another successful conversion put the Jayhawks up 22-21 — for the time being.
Michigan Center then went on its best offensive drive of the night.
The Cardinals started at their own 28-yard line with 10:44 remaining in regulation, more
than five minutes later Andrew Tordy capped the drive with 1-yard score and a 27-22
Center elected to go for two, and failed.
Vandercook got the ball one final time, and answered Center’s drive with one of its own.
Starting from the 43-yard line, the Jayhawks began marching, getting a key fourth-down
conversion from Wilks on one play, eventually getting the ball to the 8-yard line when
Wolvin called what appeared to be a standard dive play.
It was nearly disastrous.
Hancock turned and lost the ball, retreated to pick up the fumble and then darted to his
right. He was hit near the 2-yard line but lunged for the goal line.
“He’s a savvy kid,” Wolvin said of his senior quarterback, who was far from 100-percent
healthy. “He finds a way to get things done. He’s not the fleetest of foot by any means.
But I love him for getting in there. His 5-second flat 40 (yard dash) isn’t going to get him
anywhere in this game, but he found a way.”
Vandercook’s 30-27 lead was far from safe, though, as Center returned the ensuing kick
to the 42-yard line, was aided by a 15-yard personal-foul penalty, and eventually worked
the ball for a 43-yard field goal attempt from sophomore Bryan Williams with 2.3
“He’s a sophomore who’s bombed 50 yarders in practice,” Center coach troy Allen said
of Williams. “There was never a question about not kicking it. We would have liked to
have been closer, but there was no real thought process not to kick it.”
Williams’ kick never got off the ground high enough to get past the line.
“I knew he could make it. That kid can boom it,” Wolvin said about Williams. “But he
didn’t get it up high enough, and we’re thankful, because it looked like it was on target.”
“It’s extremely tough to lose like that,” Allen added of his team, which fell to 3-4 and
was likely eliminated from playoff contention for the second year in a row. “We’ve had a
couple games like that this year. I’m just sad for our kids. They did everything we asked
them to do. That’s a good football team that beat us. It came down to the end, and I’m
just sad we couldn’t get these kids a win.”
Gaddy completed 17-of-28 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns in the losing
effort. He also rushed 14 times for 52 yards. Tordy had 10 carries for 60 yards, while
Jacob Rankin had four catches for 76 yards and a score. McBride had seven catches for
55 yards and a touchdown.
Center faces Grass Lake (3-4) this coming weekend and then closes the regular season
with a crossover game.
“We want to finish strong,” Allen said. “We have two games, and in this league, I think
we can play with anybody. The beautiful things about these kids is they will hurt tonight
and tomorrow, but come Monday they are going to fight their tails off.”
Allen led Vandercook with 101 yards and two scores on 18 carries. Wilks added 56 yards
on eight carries, all in the second half. He also added 11 tackles. Sam Ray also finished
with 11 tackles.
The Jayhawks (6-0 in the Cascades Conference) travel to Manchester (6-1, 6-0) Friday to
determine the league’s champion.
“We’re going to go into it like any other game,” Wolvin said. “We’re not putting any
extra pressure on these guys. When they play loose, they play well.”