Benton Harbor ends Dowagiac’s season

Published 9:34 am Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dowagiac’s Nate Ware hurdles the pile to pick up yards against Benton Harbor Friday night. (Leader photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

Dowagiac’s Nate Ware hurdles the pile to pick up yards against Benton Harbor Friday night. (Leader photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

BENTON HARBOR — It may seem more like a movie script than real life, but for the community of Benton Harbor, the magical run of the Tigers on the football field continues.

And while one dream is still alive, another was crushed at Filstrup Field Friday night as Benton Harbor eliminated visiting Dowagiac from the postseason with a 28-7 victory.

Entering the 2015 season, Benton Harbor had one just four games in eight years. The Tigers’ last winning season came in 1989 when Benton Harbor went 6-3.

Just two weeks before the start of fall practice was set to begin, the Tigers still did not have a football coach or an athletic director.

Former Comstock and Buchanan AD Fred Smith was hired and in his first official act, Smith hired former St. Joseph coach Eliot Uzelac, who had retired five years earlier.

Uzelac, who was the head coach at Western Michigan and Navy, as well as an assistant coach at Michigan and Ohio State, took over a program that knew very little about him or about winning football games.

It did not take long before the Benton Harbor players changed both.

As the Tigers started picking up victories, the news of how Uzelac and his staff, along with the support of the community was changing the culture of the program, started to spread.

And when Benton Harbor earned its first playoff berth in school history, the story went national.

Sports Illustrated and ESPN were in town this week to highlight what is happening to a school district that just a few months earlier was not sure it would even field a football team.

Sports Illustrated’s story will appear online, while the ESPN segment appeared early Saturday morning on SportCenter hosted by Scott Van Pelt.

Despite all the distractions of local, state and national media, Benton Harbor was able to maintain its focus and dominated Dowagiac in the Division 4 opener.

Running back Percy Brown rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers finished with 254 in total offense, including 215 on the ground.

Milton McGee caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Tim Bell for the other Benton Harbor score.

Dowagiac, which finished with 167 yards of total offense, averted the shut out with less than a minute to play on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Neubauer to Erik Walker.

Neubauer was 7-of-20 for 115 yards and an interception.

Benton Harbor will travel north to face undefeated Zeeland West for the district championship either Friday or Saturday. The date has yet to be announced.



At Benton Harbor

Dowagiac                    0          0          0          7 – 7

Benton Harbor          6          8          0          14 – 28

BH – Percy Brown 3 run (kick fails)

BH – Milton McGee 22 pass from Tim Bell (Bell run)

BH – Brown 22 run (kick blocked)

BH – Brown 1 run (Bell pass to Aidrian Alexander)

D – Erik Walker 39 pass from Anthony Neubauer (Chuck Nolke kick)

Varsity records: Dowagiac 6-4, Benton Harbor 6-4