DRUMMOND — Luke Holland could have literally thrown away the game for Flint Creek.
The Titans’ junior picked up a ball that teammate Jaxon Lee juggled and appeared to catch on a slant route before fumbling. There was no immediate whistle on the play, and nearly all the players came to a standstill for a split second not sure if the ball was caught and fumbled or bobbled and incomplete.
Holland was going to toss the ball to the nearby ref, but then people on the sideline and his teammates erupted with a yell of “run.”
“So I just went for it,” Holland said.
He ran about 25 yards for a touchdown that put the Drummond-Philipsburg co-op up by 20 points and sealed what would be a 46-14 victory in an 8-man semifinal against the Circle Wildcats on Saturday in Drummond.
Flint Creek (12-0) advances to the championship game and will play Forsyth (12-0) in a battle of undefeated teams Saturday in Philipsburg. It's Flint Creek's first title-game appearance as a co-op; Drummond won five titles from 2003-09.
“Forsyth was supposed to be the best, and we want to play the best,” said Flint Creek quarterback Colton Grange, who had two passing touchdowns and one rushing score.
Holland’s fumble-recovery score was one of two times he touched the ball on offense. He caught a pass in the third quarter by tipping the ball to himself and making a diving catch.
“He doesn’t get a lot of touches, but he does great things for us blocking down field,” Flint Creek coach Mike Cutler said. “There were some opportunities for him with the ball today, and he responded.”
Added Holland: “It was fun to be able to show what I was made of and just nice to be focused enough to turn the game around.”
Holland’s score on the first play of the fourth quarter came one play after Circle scored on Trey Taylor’s 6-yard run to pull within 28-14. The Wildcats were feeling good about their comeback chances since their defense had kept Flint Creek scoreless the past three drives. The touchdown drive was set up by an interception in the end zone when Lee threw a halfback pass on fourth-and-goal.
“We’re feeling pretty good after we scored,” Circle coach Taw Eissinger said. “We had all the momentum. Our defense was playing outstanding at that point. Then a very questionable call there that they should have waved (the catch) off, and then they got all the momentum back.
“That took a lot of the air out of our sails for sure. It’s a good team over there. They’re well coached. They’re disciplined. We knew we couldn’t give up a lot of points, and that play was the dagger.”
Several Flint Creek players weren’t sure either if the ball was still live.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” said running back Colby Manley, who had two rushing touchdowns.
Added Grange: “At first I thought it was incomplete, and I was bummed. But when I saw Luke started running, I was freaking out. I was so happy.”
The Titans’ defense blanked Circle the rest of the way as it showed up in a big way once again. With 14 points allowed, they’ve limited teams to 22 total points in three playoff games. They forced Circle into four punts and four turnovers on downs, and Lee intercepted Circle quarterback Grady Taylor.
Flint Creek had jumped out to a 28-6 halftime lead, scoring on its first four possessions. Manley had a pair of 1-yard runs before Circle got on the board with a 7-yard play-action pass from Grady Taylor to Calder Flemming.
In between Manley’s two scores, Circle had a first-and-goal at the 6-yard line, but two penalties and a negative run led to a turnover on downs.
The Titans upped their lead with two scores in the final 1:51 of the first half. Grange dove in from 1 yard out, and he connected with Riley Allen for a 21-yard score after Flint Creek forced a three-and-out.
“They have great athletes,” Eissinger said. “Their quarterback (Grange) is smart, makes great decisions and get it into his playmakers’ hands, whether it’s No. 5 (Lee) or their tailback (Manley) is a good ballplayer, too. That big tight end (Allen) is a nightmare. They just have so many good players across the board.”
Forsyth 50, Ennis 38
Forsyth jumped out to a 44-14 halftime lead over Ennis and held on for a 50-38 home victory in the other semifinal.
Forsyth's Paul Johnstone scored four touchdowns. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and caught touchdown passes of 43 and 30 yards from quarterback Caleb Knoche.
Knoche threw three touchdowns and caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Weber.
Ennis outscored Forsyth 24-6 in the second half but couldn't get any closer than 12 points.
Ennis quarterback Tanner Wood tossed three touchdowns and ran for a 44-yard score. Gus Dickinson caught touchdowns of 29 and 13 yards. Corbin Wood had rushing scores of 2 and 4 yards.