The Red Devils of Noxon High School knew they had their collective hands full when they traveled to Highwood to challenge Geraldine-Highwood in the first round of the Class C 6-man football state playoffs last Saturday.
Noxon, the fourth seeded team from the Western Division, managed just two touchdowns and suffered a 51-14 loss to the Rivals, the No. 1 seed from the North Division. G-H will host Richey-Lambert in the quarterfinals this weekend. Richey-Lambert buried Bridger, 80-30, last Friday.
G-H scored four touchdowns in the first quarter for a 30-0 lead, and held a 39-6 halftime advantage.
NOXON WENT scoreless in the first and third quarters, throttled by the hard-nosed Rivals’ defense.
“They were good, we knew that going in,” Noxon fourth-year head coach Bart Halflich said of G-H. “They played well. We didn’t do a couple of things we normally do. We didn’t move the ball very well.
“They’re probably going to be around toward the end of the season,” Haflich said of the Rivals.
G-H used a balanced attack to cruise past the Red Devils. After a 40-yard scoring run by JR Spencer, the Rivals recovered an onside kick. Brady Duvall then connected with Isiah Maxwell on TD passes of 15 and 13 yards. Liam Laws dived in from a yard out for an early 30-0 Rivals lead.
Noxon got on the board on a 1-yard run by Cade VanVleet. But G-H tallied the next 21 points for a 51-6 advantage. Edison VanVleet scored the second Red Devils TD on a 42-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“They kind of did what they wanted to,” Haflich said of G-H. “They were the better team and they played pretty well … We had some decent drives but got stuffed a couple of times.
“They ran a couple of play-action passes, but they ran it down our throats,” Haflich said. “They didn’t have to throw it.”
NOXON SENIOR Levi Brubaker, who had an exceptional all-around season, got to the G-H 3-yard-line on a long run, but “they stuffed us three times in a row” and an incomplete pass left the Red Devils without a score on that possession.
Brody Hill intercepted a G-H pass, but his long return was nullified by a questionable block in the back penalty, according to Haflich.
Noxon, with Haflich in his 13th year with the Red Devils football program, finished the season with a 5-4 record.
“We got into the playoffs again,” the coach said. “We’ll see if we can be bigger, stronger and faster for next year.”
Noxon will lose two key seniors — Brubaker and Edison “Eddie” VanVleet. “It’s always tough to see good seniors go. They’re good kids, they worked hard. They set the tone in practice. We’ll have big shoes to fill.”