HANCOCK - It is impossible to depict the intensity and physicality displayed on both sides of the ball Friday night without falling into trite cliches.
So rather than fight it, let us give the floor to the exhilarated participants to properly describe Hancock's 8-0 victory over Calumet, the first time since 2003 the Bulldogs have ended in the win column over their neighbors to the north.
"I am going to remember this for the rest of my life," Hancock senior lineman Adrian Saterstad said. "Hancock varsity has not beat Calumet for 10 years. This is the happiest moment of my life."
Calumet’s Sam Kariniemi was brought down by a Hancock double team of Chase Anderson (9) and Kyle Hauswirth (2)?on the opening kick-off during Friday’s game at McAfee Field in Hancock.
Hancock quarterback Tanner Kearly hands off to tailback Riley Engman during Friday’s game against Calumet at McAfee Field. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
"I remember going up there in ninth, 10th grade and just getting pounded by them," Hancock senior quarterback Tanner Kearly added. "They are such a great program, that this feels special, no question."
After a 0-0 first half that featured bend-but-don't-break defense from both squads, Hancock stormed 66 yards after the second half opening kickoff to take an 8-0 lead with running back Riley Engman capping the drive on a 21-yard cutback run.
That would be all the Bulldogs needed thanks to some inspired defensive play.
Calumet 0 0 0 0 - 0
Hancock 0 0 8 0 - 8
HAN - Riley Engman 21-yard run (Alex Almquist catch from Tanner Kearly), 9:04.
Total yards - Calumet 405 (285 rushing, 120 passing); Hancock 232 (145 rushing, 87 passing). First downs - Calumet 16, Hancock 15.
After the teams traded stalled drives, the Copper Kings drove 59 yards on eight plays to Hancock's one-yard line - with junior quarterback Tyler Loukus just failing to cross the goal-line on a 38 yard scamper - to set up a first-and-goal from the one.
This is Calumet. A team synonymous with power running. Four chances to get one yard?
"During practiced all week we preached it hard. Physicality, physicality," Hancock coach Matt Walter said. "Going up against L'Anse helped us, getting the snot kicked out of us by Northland Pines helped us. I think we learned from that."
"From tackle to tackle, Calumet is as strong as there is," Kearly added. "Which just makes it more awesome to hold them four straight downs with inches to go. That was a special effort."
The first play went belly to fullback Kaden Kangas, but Saterstad won his battle at the line and knocked Kangas off course. No gain.
Calumet went to Kangas a second time, this time with the linebackers piling in fast. Again, no gain.
"Man that was rough," Bulldog senior lineman Jacob Keranen said. "You just have to blow them off right away, and then get down and let your linebackers get him. ... it was an amazing stand. To put in all that hard work, and get that result, it's just amazing."
With the odds starting to turn in Hancock's favor, the Bulldog student section took advantage of a break in the action to spot the ball to rush en masse behind the endzone. A mere 10 yards from the play, the noise was deafening.
This time Calumet tried a sneak with Loukus, but the push wasn't there. Still no gain.
"We have never had fans like that before, that was awesome," Saterstad said.
"Our fan section was so rowdy, it was awesome," Kearly added.
With just one more chance and the pressure fully on the Kings now, Calumet went back to the well with the bruising Kangas a third time, but Hancock stoned the junior inches short to complete the miraculous stand.
"That was heart. Just heart," Saterstad said. "I think they came at me every time. I just tried to fire out low, and play with more heart."
Of course, the job wasn't done yet with a full quarter still to play. And whatever way the momentum was swinging, Calumet traded blow for blow with Hancock to stymie them at the 1 in turn and force a punt from the back of the endzone to start the fourth quarter.
"All I have to say is that I am proud as (heck) of my team," Croze said. "No one can play as hard as they did with their backs to the wall like we did. I'm just so proud of that."
Kearly responded with a 59-yard booming punt and a generous roll to give his defense room to breathe.
"In your own endzone in that situation to punt out of there is a lot of pressure," Walter said. "He handled it very well."
Hancock needed every yard, as Calumet marched back to Hancock's 13 before falling short with an incomplete pass on fourth down.
The Bulldogs offense kicked into clock-killing mode, and 33 yards rushing from Engman and another strong punt from Kearly put Calumet on its own-14-yard line with under two minutes to play.
The drive emulated Engman's day, as the senior finished with 146 yards on 16 carries and probably just as many bruises.
"They were psyched, they were ready to play," Engman said of the offensive line. "They hit low, drive and kept making room for the running backs."
A Kearly interception of Loukus and then subsequent lost fumble from Engman on the next play gave the finish a wild, topsy-turvy feel, but however many years it subtracted from Walter's life, Hancock was able to end the game with a kneel down at the 50-yard line as Calumet didn't have the firepower to cover 90-plus yards in under two minutes.
As the last second ticked off, the Hancock players were bombarded by oncoming students who couldn't wait any longer to celebrate.
Walter gathered fans and players alike to deliver one last speech.
"Thank you fans, thank you (players), this is what we needed," Walter said. "We are bringing Hancock football back and it starts now."