Maple Grove quarterback Alex Grace crouched on the sidelines, helmet in hand staring out to his home football field on the Dutch Hollow Road.
There was nothing more he could do.
He led the Red Dragons on two scoring drives, helped stake his team to a 14-6 lead and it was up to the Maple Grove defense to do the rest as the Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds (3-2) had one last chance to drive the length of the field and tie the Class D West football game.
Maple Grove 14, CLCS 6
|Chautauqua Lake||0 6 0 0—6|
|Maple Grove||0 7 7 0—14|
|CL—Kenny 11 run (run failed)|
|MG—Saxton 72 pass from Grace (permitted kick)|
|MG—Milliman 5 run (permitted kick)|
The Maple Grove defense held and the Red Dragons won their fourth straight game, improving to 4-1 on the year with the 14-6 victory Friday night.
It was a fitting end to the game, with Grace and the offense on the sidelines watching the defense make the right plays and secure the pivotal win.
Maple Grove’s Gage Milliman leaps between teammates Luke Nickerson (54) and John Nickerson (36) during the Red Dragons’ win over Chautauqua Lake on Friday night. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Simon Teska
''I just have to say that coach (Dave) Emley did a great job,'' Maple Grove head coach Curt Fischer said. ''Our defense was stout tonight. He put together a great game plan.''
Chautauqua Lake running back Steve Kenny was limited to only 67 yards on 25 carries and the Red Dragons' defense held Chautauqua Lake to only 106 total yards of offense. the Thunderbirds only score of the night came with great field position off of a turnover, but aside from that one drive, it was all about the hard-hitting defense of Maple Grove.
''Johnny Nickerson had over 20 tackles,'' Fischer continued. ''Coach Emley had him in the right place and had him doing the right things, obviously. If I had a game ball, I'd give it to coach Emley.''
Maple Grove's plan was simple. It wanted to stop Kenny.
''We thought if we could hold him under 150 yards we'd feel good, but we held him to less than that,'' Fischer said. ''It was an incredible defensive night for us. Offensively, we were a little bit confused. We are happy with our execution on certain things, but give credit to them. They did a great job and we might see them again, who knows.''
Chautauqua Lake got on the board first with a short scoring drive in the first quarter which was set up by the Thunderbird defense.
Jason McMahon intercepted a pass for Chautauqua Lake, setting up the T-Bird offense at Maple Grove's 35-yard line. A big fourth-down conversion on a run from Kenny set up an 11-yard touchdown run for the Chautauqua Lake running back.
With 3:31 left in the quarter, it was 6-0 in favor of the visitors.
''We're getting better,'' Chautauqua Lake coach Dan Greco said. ''They're creeping their way up to the next level. Our kids are doing everything we ask of them and more. It's just going to take nothing more than a couple of games.''
The Red Dragons responded just before halftime in a big way. After struggling to piece together any big drives against the T-Birds' defense throughout the first half, they decided just to get all the yards on one play.
A wide receiver screen to Jordan Saxton went 72 yards for a touchdown and after a Jason permitted extra point, Maple Grove took the lead, 7-6, heading into halftime.
That wasn't the only big play of the game for Maple Grove, either.
A 52-yard pass from Grace to Gage Milliman on a slant across the middle set up a 5-yard run for Milliman to give Maple Grove the 14-6 advantage late in the third quarter.
''They know how to make big plays,'' Greco said. ''We had an opportunity to make a big play and we didn't make it. They had an opportunity and did make it. That was pretty much the difference in the game.''
With an eight-point lead, the Grace and the offense had done its job. The fourth quarter was left up to the defense and running back Brett Tordoff to eat up the clock.
Tordoff finished with 68 yards on only nine carries, most of which came in the final quarter. Grace completed 5-of-14 passes for 155 yards and the one touchdown. It wasn't his most efficient outing, but Grace made the big plays he needed to.
''I thought he did a great job and he made a few great passes,'' Fischer said of his quarterback. ''The pass he made to Milliman and the concentration was phenomenal. Milliman came up with a couple of big plays for us tonight.''
Milliman finished with three catches for 65 yards and Saxton finished with two catches for 90 yards. The Maple Grove offense tallied 246 total yards on the night.
Defensively, Leighton Casket joined Nickerson in double digit tackles with 14 and Saxton added 10 including an interception.
For Chautauqua Lake, Cam Baker added 34 yards rushing.