Mystery kicker throws him in rain, through studs, gives Bay City Western victory for centuries
MIDLAND, MI – Eli Meylan has just put his name in the tradition of Bay City Western football.
Before you even put it on the list.
In the biggest moment of the biggest game of a wonderful season, the Warriors put their fate on the foot of a second-year kicker, called late in the season, with no experience. They sent # 31.
And there is no number 31 on the list.
The most unlikely of Western heroes trotted across the field in the pouring rain and drilled 35 yards with 8 seconds on the clock, throwing the Warriors into frenzy with a breathtaking 25-23 victory over Midland Dow in the District of Division 2 semi-final.
“It’s great because these guys worked so hard for it,” Meylan said. “I didn’t want this to be the end of their season. I wanted them to take their playoff victory.
Bay City Area First Round Playoff Scores
Western got it in spectacular fashion, avenging an epic loss to Dow in Week 5 while qualifying for the program’s first district final in 13 years. Western (8-2) travels to Traverse City Central (9-1) for next week’s title game.
Meylan’s kick was just the peak of a game that was a back-and-forth war throughout the second half. The lead changed hands seven times overnight, including three times in the 5:43 final.
Western appeared on the ground when Dow quarterback Jack Bakus scored a one-yard touchdown that would have made it a two-runner game with 7:33 remaining. But the Chargers (6-3) were called up for helping the runner and the points were taken from the table.
Trevor Rajewski and the Western defense then made a fourth save and – two games later – Joe Wiedyk went wild for a 90-yard touchdown that put the Warriors in the lead 22-20 with 5:43 left.
But Dow responded in a clutch fashion, leading for a 21-yard field goal by Carson Jankens to take a 23-22 lead with 2:08 left in the game.
The return has come from the West. But with its continued onslaught in the rain, the clock was no ally and Western ran out of time and dips, placing fourth and fifth on the Dow 18.
The Warriors hadn’t scored a field goal all year. And their current first-string kicker was a newcomer to the Grade 10 squad who had sidelined the entire game.
“I said to the coach, ‘Put on Eli. He will make it.’ I just knew he would, “said senior quarterback Logan O’Hare.” There is something special about this team… something special.
Meylan’s boot was just high enough, just long enough, and right between the uprights.
“We put it in the hands of God and we gave it a shot,” said Western coach Chris Willertz. “The kid is a stallion.”
Willertz said the team had spent the entire week working on additional kicking drills, with Meylan joining two other candidates to see who came out the most effective. In Thursday’s practice, the trio attempted eight kicks – and missed all eight.
“I said ‘I know the answer. We’re just not going to kick it, ”said Willertz.
But that wouldn’t be an option at the end of the game – and fate followed the Warriors’ path.
It was a dramatic turn of events in the rivalry. Dow had worked the magic of football in the regular season reunion, coming back from a 44-16 deficit in the fourth quarter with 29 unanswered points, recovering three kicks in the process.
Revenge would be another thriller. The two teams met at 8-8 at halftime, then turned the game into a battle of wills in the second half with the season on the line.
“It was the most important victory for all of us because we didn’t want this brotherhood, this family to end,” O’Hare said. “We all said, ‘It won’t end tonight. One way or another, we’re going to win this game.
O’Hare led the offense with 162 yards on 21 carries, scoring on an 8-yard rush in the first quarter and a flurry of 62 yards in the third quarter. Wiedyk rolled 120 yards on 10 carries, most of it coming from his 90-yard dash.
Dow has done it in the field as well. AJ Fang ran for 154 yards on 10 carries and also racked up great receiving distances on four shovel passes. Bakus completed 8 of 12 passes for 106 yards, all but three of his goals coming from behind the line of scrimmage. The 6-foot-5 caller delivered grainy while rushing for 98 yards on 21 carries.
Bakus rushed for two touchdowns and the shovel passed to Fang for a 29-yard touchdown.
But the Western defense kept Dow out of the end zone on consecutive trips inside the 10-yard line in the fourth quarter and that would have huge significance.
When a long-haul hero came off the sideline and scored a 35-yard field goal in the rain and through the studs, the Warriors added their biggest chapter to their breakout season.