April 22 • 06:29 AM

Spartans win alumni game, 20-6

Event draws thousands to Imlay City for football clash with North Branch

Members of the Imlay City football team take time out for a photo after defeating North Branch, 20-6, in the Alumni Football Game. photo by Kevin Kissane.

August 08, 2007
IMLAY CITY — Imlay City evened their series with North Branch at a game apiece, prevailing via a 20-6 scoreboard count, in the Second Annual Alumni Football Game involving the longtime rivals last Friday evening.

A crowd estimated between 2,200 and 2,500 fans watched the action unfold at Grettenberger Field in Imlay City.

The event raised $9,000 which will be divided evenly between both school's athletic programs.

"It is nice to be out here playing on our home field," 1992 Imlay City High School graduate Steve Lestage, who also participated in the first alumni game, told The Tri-City Times. "We were able to come out here tonight, even the series and raise some money to benefit both schools," he noted.

"The whole alumni game experience was great. That includes the practices and the opportunity to see some guys you played alongside and others you have heard about before. This all leads up to one night where everyone gets to be competitive again."

John Topie, who directed the Imlay City squad along with Ken Day this time around, said he expected his team to be ready once game time rolled around.

"Everyone knew what they had to do," Topie said. "We went over things often during our practice sessions and when the time to play arrived they went out and got the job done," he emphasized.

In Friday's confrontation, Imlay City put up the first points.

That happened when Rick Granata took a handoff from Matt Topie, shed a host of prospective tacklers and plowed a path to paydirt via a tote from one yard away.

Bill Brown then booted the extra-point kick through the uprights, giving Imlay City a 7-0 lead with 8:38 showing on the second quarter clock.

Imlay City would score one more time before the opening half was history.

Matt Topie saw to that, scrambling his way to for a two-yard touchdown carry just before the clock zeroed out.

This time around their extra-point kick just missed the mark, leaving Imlay City with a 13-0 cushion at the halftime break.

The pivotal touchdown-producing drive may not have reached its successful finish were it not for the quick-thinking on the part of Imlay City's Jeremy Aguinaga. It was his 36-yard pass collaboration with Matt Topie that helped keep the drive alive.

"The pass was suppose to go to Kevin VanDerPloeg," Jeremy recalled. "Kevin was wide-open but Matt got hit just as he released the pass," he noted.

"I saw the ball was floating a little so I ran under it and made the catch. Then I ran as fast as possible to get out of bounds to leave us with some time on the clock. It wound up working and we scored on the next play."

When the action resumed, North Branch bounced back with a 75-yard drive which drew to a close with a Mike Groce to Jon Gleeson touchdown pass covering two yards of territory.

Imlay City quarterback Matt Topie fakes a handoff to Rick Granata during Friday’s Alumni Football Game versus North Branch. Topie went on to score a touchdown on the play. photo by Kevin Kissane.
The PAT bid proved unsuccessful, keeping Imlay City's lead at 13-6 with 5:19 showing on the third quarter clock.

North Branch then tried to catch Imlay City off guard with a squib kick.

However, Imlay City was able to land on the ball instead.

Imlay City set up on the North Branch 39-yard line, hoping to counter with a touchdown of their own.

However, that scenario would not unfold.

A few plays later, Imlay City's drive came to halt when a North Branch Bronco player broke containment and sacked the opposing quarterback.

North Branch set up at their own 32-yard line, intent on acquiring the equalizer. And for awhile it looked as though the Broncos would succeed in accomplishing the feat.

Methodically, North Branch marched down the field. There was one first down, then another and then another.

It led to a fourth down situation where North Branch opted to forego a possible field goal attempt.

The Imlay City defense then dug in, not wanting to give any more ground.

Sure enough, Imlay City defense would step it up a notch. The Spartans came up with a crucial fourth down stop and took over at their own 10-yard line.

Imlay City then marched down the field, looking to put the game out of reach. And the Spartans would do just that.

This time Matt Topie lofted an 18-yard touchdown pass to VanDerPloeg, who outleaped a North Branch defender for a six-point result.

Brown then added the extra-point kick, increasing Imlay City's cushion to 20-6 with 2:54 to play.

Imlay City would add an interception during the game's closing minutes, assuring themselves of a 20-6 win.

Sports Editor, Kevin Kissane has been covering sports for the Tri-City Times for over 20 years and is one of the most recognizable personalities in the area. Kevin when not covering anything from little league baseball to football, or softball to basketball, can be found on the links playing his favorite sport, golf.
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