Dowagiac defense leads Chieftains into the playoffs

Published 10:02 am Saturday, October 12, 2013

Brandon Hatch catches a pass from Austin Brodo that he turns into a 43-yard touchdown against Three Rivers Friday night. (Leader photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

Brandon Hatch catches a pass from Austin Brodo that he turns into a 43-yard touchdown against Three Rivers Friday night. (Leader photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

When the Dowagiac football has needed a big play this season it has turned to its defense.

Friday night was no different as the Chieftains were trying to stave off a comeback bid by visiting Three Rivers late in the game.

Just when it looked like the Wildcats might be driving for a game-tying touchdown, the defense stepped up and saved the day.

A strip of the ball from Three Rivers quarterback Alex Cottingham by Nick Thielmann and the recovery by Lucas Petro at the Chieftain 45-yard line sealed the 14-7 Wolverine Conference West Division victory for Dowagiac.

The win qualified for Chieftains for the playoffs for the third straight year and for the seventh time in eight seasons.

The victory was also the fourth straight by Dowagiac over Three Rivers.

Friday night’s game showcased a pair of strong defenses, which did not allow a first down until midway through the first quarter on either side.

Dowagiac and Three Rivers both scored touchdowns in the second quarter, but it was the Chieftains to grabbed the lead on an 11-yard run by Aaron Adams in the third quarter that proved to be the difference.

Adams’ score capped a nine-play drive, which was started by a big kickoff return to open the second half by Brody Froehlich to the Chieftains’ 46-yard line.

The 54-yard scoring drive ate up nearly seven minutes and would but the Wildcats behind the eight ball.

Three Rivers (4-3, 2-2 West) never seriously threatened to score the remainder of the contest, but a long run by Cottingham of 54 yards before having the ball stripped, would have put the Wildcats in great position with just under two minutes to play.

“We have counted on our defense all year and they came up big again tonight,” Dowagiac coach Mike Stanger said. “I am so proud of these kids right now. To return just three starters from last year and to be 6-1 really says a lot about their character. These kids just never give up.”

Three Rivers opened the scoring when Johnell Steward hauled in a Cottingham pass and weaved his way through the Dowagiac defense for a 53-yard touchdown.

Dowagiac responded immediately and drove 64 yards to knot the score at 7-7 with 2:39 remaining in the first half.

Austin Broda hit a wide open Brandon Hatch behind the Wildcats’ secondary for a 43-yard score.

Dowagiac finished the game with 253 yards in total offense, including 122 through the air.

Hatch led the ground game with 46 yards, while Broda was 6-of-13 for 122 and the score.

Zach Williams was his favorite target as he caught four of those passes for 73 yards.

The Wildcats finished with 172 yards of total offense. Bailey Miholer-Wortinger rushed for 84 yards, while Cottingham threw for 65.

The Chieftains (6-1, 4-0 West) will now get set for their showdown with Edwardsburg Friday night for the West Division title. Kickoff at Leo Hoffman Field is scheduled for 7 p.m.


Three Rivers 0 7 0 0 – 7

Dowagiac 0 7 7 0 – 14

TR – Johnell Stewart 53 pass from Alex Cottingham (Cottingham kick)

D – Brandon Hatch 43 pass from Austin Broda (Lucas Petro kick)

D – Aaron Adams 12 run (Petro kick)