Mendon rallies to defeat Cassopolis

Published 4:37 pm Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cassopolis football coach Bernard Thomas (left) and players Xavier Brooks (65) and Austin Pitchford (66) walk off the field at half time during Friday night’s Division 7 district championship game. The Hornets rallied to defeat the Rangers 35-26. (Vigilant/Argus photo/GARY WEAVER)

Cassopolis football coach Bernard Thomas (left) and players Xavier Brooks (65) and Austin Pitchford (66) walk off the field at half time during Friday night’s Division 7 district championship game. The Hornets rallied to defeat the Rangers 35-26. (Vigilant/Argus photo/GARY WEAVER)

MENDON — Division 7 mighty mite Mendon proved Friday night that dominating the second half is more beneficial than earlier in a football game as the hosts came back from a 26-7 second quarter deficit to sting Cassopolis 35-26 for the second straight year.

Before a minute could tick off the clock Cassopolis (8-3) found the end zone with senior Nathan Hartline taking a pitch from junior quarterback Dwayne Morgan 71 yards without a defender laying a hand on him. Senior Marcus Ruff went untouched from one yard with 1:23 left in the first quarter on a ball controlled possession with junior Blaise Suseland splitting the uprights on both point after(s) to give the Rangers a 14-0 advantage.

The Hornets (10-1) cut the lead in half on the second play from scrimmage with junior quarterback Chance Nightingale finding senior Logan Ahrens to account for 56 yards with the latter also booting the extra point. Mendon has seven two-way starters with six of them being juniors.

“Our quarterback (Nightingale) has really improved in the last three weeks and made only one bad decision,” commented veteran Mendon coach John Schwartz. “This year sometimes we only had two seniors on the field, so this is a young team that still makes mistakes.”

Hartline scored the next dozen points with a pair of touchdowns and with five minutes left in the second stanza the Rangers looked to be in control with a 26-7 lead and controlling both lines of impact.

“This was a big game and needed to be solid as a rock on offense, defense and special teams,” stated Cassopolis coach Bernard Thomas. “Marcus (Ruff) and Nate (Hartline) are pillars in both the community and on the field and it showed.”

Mendon’s momentum seemed to start late in the second quarter with Nightingale finding classmate Cody Bingaman on a five-yard scoring strike to go into the locker room behind 26-14.

Cassopolis had a total of 305 yards at intermission with Hartline and Ruff accumulating 142 and 88 yards respectively. Hartline also completed a pass to classmate Austin Los for 29 yards and Morgan hit senior tight end Tommy First for 33 additional markers.

Ahrens’ touchdown grab accounted for half of the total yards for the Hornets in the first half.

“Cass made some big plays in the first half and we corrected that at halftime,” said Schwartz. “Our kids wanted to run a certain area and we changed to man instead of zone blocking.”

Mendon marched down the field on the opening drive of the second half and it took only three minutes for Nightingale to complete his third touchdown aerial to a different receiver. Junior Tanner Cook found himself all alone on an 11-yard touchdown catch and the score was narrowed to 26-21 after the kick.

The special teams and penalties for Cassopolis would turn out to be enemies as much as the Hornets.

Infractions gave Mendon first downs four different times in the second half and the Hornets took the lead when a blocked punt by Cook was corralled by senior Spencer Howe who ran the remaining 27 yards for a touchdown with just under four minutes left in the third quarter.

“We worked all week on that punt block and bygone it worked as we sent three people through the same spot and they all made it through,” said Schwartz.

“We had trouble punting the ball all year and penalties will always hurt against good teams, which Mendon always is and after they moved the ball down the field on the first drive of the second half, they just kept the momentum the rest of the game,” commented Thomas. “We just didn’t click on all cylinders and do enough good things.”

Sophomore running back Tyler Harris and Nightingale moved the chains and kept possession to Mendon for most of the final quarter with Harris scoring the only touchdown from four yards with 8:42 left in the Ranger season.

Cassopolis could only muster 22 yards of offense in the second half, but were penalized six times for 65 yards, with Hartline and Ruff finishing their careers with 163 and 95 yards respectively.  Harris equaled Ruff’s rushing total and Nightingale completed five of eight aerials for 113 of Mendon’s 249 yardage total

Ruff picked off Nightingale’s only mistake late in the third quarter, but a block in the back on his 20-yard return to the 35 brought the ball back to midfield.

“Give credit to Mendon for playing better defense in the second half as we ran the same plays, but didn’t get the yards,” concluded Thomas.  “I am very proud of the entire football team and hope to play these guys again next year.”

Cassopolis 14 12 0 0 – 26

Mendon 7 7 14 7 – 35

C – Nathan Hartline 71 run (Blaise Suseland kick)

C – Marcus Ruff 1 run (Suseland kick)

M – Logan Ahrens 56 pass from Chance Nightingale (Ahrens kick)

C – Hartline 1 run (kick wide)

C – Hartline 60 run (run failed)

M – Cody Bingaman 5 pass from Nightingale (Ahrens kick)

M – Tanner Cook 11 pass from Nightingale (Ahrens kick)

M – Spencer Howe 27 blocked punt return (Ahrens kick)

M – Tyler Harris 4 run (Ahrens kick)

Varsity records: Cassopolis 8-3, Mendon 10-1