FLINT TWP. — Someone asked Carman-Ainsworth football coach Nate Williams last week to sum up the season by his history-making Cavaliers.
“I don’t want to sum it up,” Williams said. “I want to keep this journey going.”
The Cavaliers did keep the journey going and took their season into new territory Saturday by beating Hudsonville, 27-20, in a Div. 1 regional championship game at Carman-Ainsworth Junior High. Jevonte Alexander rushed for 121 yards on 11 carries and Jerron Thomas came up with two key turnovers in the second half, as Carman-Ainsworth advanced to a state semifinal against fourth-ranked Clarkston at 1 p.m. Saturday at Lake Orion.
The Cavs are in the semifinals for the first time in school history, and their 11-1 record breaks the mark of 10-1 by the 1999 team.
“We talk about making history, and there will never be another first,” said Williams. “These guys will go down forever in the history books at Carman-Ainsworth, so I’m proud of them.”
Carman-Ainsworth controlled much of the game, except for a mistake filled second quarter in which Hudsonville took its only lead, 13-7.
The visiting Eagles, 8-4, received the opening kickoff and held the ball for eight minutes, until Alexander stopped the drive with an interception at the Carman-Ainsworth 17. Just one minute later, he broke off a 66-yard touchdown run to give the Cavs a 7-0 lead with 2:58 left in the quarter.
Carman-Ainsworth recovered a Hudsonville fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but things went downhill from there. Penalties, high snaps, a fumble and a shanked punt all combined to keep the Cavs off the scoreboard in the second quarter. At one point, they faced fourth-and-41 after two holding penalties and an unsportsmanlike conduct call.
Hudsonville tied the game, 7-7, on a 3-yard run by Kyle Toth with 2:35 left in the half, after converting a fourth-and-nine play. Carman- Ainsworth fumbled on the next play from scrimmage at its own 11, and Hudsonville took a 13-7 lead on Toth’s 1-yard dive into the end zone with 51 seconds left in the half.
The Cavs regained control in the third quarter, starting with Connor Storms’ 50-yard punt to the Hudsonville 15. The Eagles followed with a shanked punt to their own 38, and Carman-Ainsworth struck fast with Alexander’s 30-yard run and Malik Seales’ 1-yard touchdown plunge with 5:57 left in the period for a 14-13 lead.
Just 91 seconds later, Jerron Thomas picked off an Eagles pass and took it 35 yards to make it 20-13.
Hudsonville countered with a drive to the Carman-Ainsworth 19, but Thomas killed it by ripping the ball from an Eagles back and returning it to midfield. A 33-yard run by Alexander took the ball to the Hudsonville 17, and Seales carried it in from there for a 27-13 lead with 11:16 left in the fourth quarter.
The determined Eagles closed to within 27-20 on Mason Opple’s 20- yard touchdown pass to Dustin Tripp with 5:29 left. Hudsonville got one more possession with 4:07 to play, but Alexander’s interception of a tipped pass sealed the victory with 2:08 left.
Clarkston, 11-1, reach the semifinals by routing Rochester Adams, 56-28. The winner of Saturday’s game will play either No. 6 Detroit Catholic Central, 10-2, or No. 1 Detroit Cass Tech, 12-0, in the Div. 1 final at Ford Field.