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Spartans win Alumni Game, 17-0


Imlay City and North Branch schools raise thousands for football programs, 1,300 fans enjoy benefit game


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Imlay City’s Steve Lestage hauls in a reception during Saturday’s alumni contest versus North Branch. photo by Kevin Kissane.

July 30, 2008
IMLAY CITY — Imlay City saw to it that they would not go home disappointed, registering a 17-0 road triumph against North Branch in the Third Annual Alumni Football Game between the two schools last Saturday night.

A crowd estimated at about 1,300 fans watched the action unfold.

The event raised about $5,500 for the Imlay City football program this year.

"Our play on the defensive side of the football was the difference tonight," Imlay City Coach Ken Day said. "We seemed to always have an answer for what North Branch's offense was trying to accomplish against us," he noted.

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"It was a battle out here tonight. We knew it would not be easy."

In Saturday's confrontation, Imlay City and North Branch concluded the initial quarter with matching outputs of zero points.

Quarter number two would see North Branch make a bid to put up the go-ahead points, marching down the field to the Imlay City four-yard line.

It was there Joe Schierlinger took a handoff and didn't stop until he had reached the endzone. He was promptly swarmed by several of his North Branch teammates as the Broncos took a 6-0 lead with about six minutes remaining until halftime.

However, the result of the play would not stand. The officials had ruled there was illegal participation on the part of North Branch team, thus nullifying the result of the play.

A few plays later, North Branch lined up for a 34-yard field goal attempt.

Again their pursuit of points would be denied. This time Imlay City's Steve Cooke came up with a big play, blocking the kick.

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photo by Kevin Kissane.
It was scooped up by Imlay City's Chad Stryker, who raced down the field with a host of North Branch defenders in pursuit.

He was dragged down to the ground at the North Branch 45-yard line.

Three plays later, Imlay City had advanced the ball to the North Branch 28-yard line.

It looked as though Imlay City would finish the drive with some points, but to no avail.

On the next play, Imlay City would lose a fumble.

North Branch then set up at their 34-yard line, hoping to orchestrate a touchdown-producing drive before the opening half ended. The Broncos had 2:17 to accomplish that goal.

Gradually, North Branch moved the ball down the field to the Imlay City 40-yard line.

It was there North Branch attempted a 57-yard field goal on the quarter's final play. The effort fell quite a ways short of the target, leaving it a 0-0 ballgame at the halftime break.

The third quarter would prove scoreless as well.

Quarter number four, though, would belong to Imlay City.

It was there Imlay City put up the game's first points when quarterback Matt Topie sprinted 34 yards for a touchdown.

Ted Reintjes then contributed a successful extra-point kick, giving Imlay City a 7-0 lead with 9:20 remaining.

On the ensuing possession, North Branch set up at their own 10-yard line.

Their initial play, a run, went for a three-yard pickup.

North Branch then tried to attack via the ground route again, only to fumble under pressure from the opposing defense.

Jim Mauricio, of Imlay City, alertly covered the loose football.

Imlay City was in the red zone once again, this time at the North Branch six-yard line.

After a pair of running plays, which netted a two-yard loss, Imlay City attempted to attack via the air route.

Rick Lee, under pressure from the North Branch defense, scrambled outside and lofted a pass toward Kevin VanderPloeg in the right corner of the endzone.

What followed was a play of the highlight reel variety.

Lee's toss was batted in the air and VanderPloeg fell to the ground after a collision with a North Branch defender.

Meanwhile, the ball remained up for grabs.

VanderPloeg, now lying on his back in the endzone, continued to track its flight path.

Unbelievably, the ball floated right into his hands as an astonished crowd looked on.

VanderPloeg had snagged an amazing catch, good for a touchdown.

"Kevin made a great play," Lee said. "I thought for sure it was going to be an incompletion when they got a hand on the ball," he emphasized.

As for VanderPloeg, he couldn't believe it either.

"I was on my back in the endzone, looked up and there the ball was," VanderPloeg said. "It was a great feeling to make the catch," he noted.

Reintjes followed it up with an accurate extra-point boot.

That made it 14-0, Imlay City, with 7:30 to play.

Imlay City would score one more time before the game ended, capitalizing on a Reintjes 24-yard field goal with 52 seconds remaining.

His effort put the finishing touches on a 17-0 Imlay City victory.

And more importantly, as anyone who suited for Imlay City that evening will tell you, a 2-1 series lead against their rivals to the north.

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Van Dyke Gas
08 - 19 - 17
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