HARTLAND — On a night when heavy rain and a stiff breeze made throwing the ball problematic, to say the least, the Pinckney football team used a strong rushing attack and field position to its advantage.
The result was a 19-0 win over Hartland at the Eagles’ homecoming, a loss that ended Hartland’s hopes for a third consecutive playoff appearance and ended their hopes of being KLAA West champions for the fourth time in five seasons.
Luke Rendell rushed for 140 yards and two scores and Alex Wasyl ran for 58 yards on his only carry of the game to put the game out of reach with 1:13 remaining.
The Pirates had 260 yards in total offense, all but four of it on the ground. Quarterback Jack Wurzer threw only four passes, for 4 yards, but proved an able foil to Luke Rendell in Pinckney’s rushing attack, rushing for 54 yards and forcing the Hartland defense to keep an eye on him as well as Rendell.
The results, Pinckney coach Jakob Gailitis said, were due to a challenge he threw down to the Pirates’ offensive line earlier in the week.
“We said we had to have positive yards on first down, and we had to win the first-downs battle,” he said. “Our offensive line, I put it on them. I said I put this on you. Nobody else. As the O-line coach, it’s on me, too. We’re all in it together.”
But the Pirates defense and special teams also shone.
Hartland got the ball across the 50 only once until the final minute of play, and the Pirates pinned them deep in their own territory for most of the first half.
An Eagles rushing attack that ran for more than 300 yards the week before in a win against Milford was held to just 80 yards by, according to the Eagles, the Pirates defense and their own mistakes.
“I don’t think it was their defense,” Hartland quarterback Brad Ekonen said. “I think it was us personally. We had a lot of mistakes, ourselves. The weather conditions were no excuse, but it’s tough playing in this weather. We should be able to do i. We have to quit with the mental breakdowns on our side.”
Rain, at times heavy, and a strong wind from the north made passing, and shotgun snaps from center, an adventure.
The Pirates got the ball in Hartland territory twice in the first quarter, but didn’t capitalize until Rendell scored slightly after the midway point of the second quarter on a 2-yard run.
The score stayed at 7-0 until Rendell scored from 2 yards out midway through the fourth quarter and Alex Wasyl scored on a jet sweep down the sideline in front of the Hartland bench with 1L:13 remaining. Both extra-point attempts failed. The first was aborted due to a fumble on the snap and the second was blocked.
But, by then, the game was decided. The Eagles moved the ball nine plays for 49 yards on their last drive against Pinckney substitutes, but suffered three drops before the clock ran out.
“Our defense played light’s out,” Gailitis said. “I’ve been bragging about our defensive line. They’re so big and so tough. Buto ur linebackers and theother kids also play so hard. We dot have many of them, so our kids have to play a lot of snaps, and that’s something you don’t see much any more. It’s refreshing to see kids just play hard every play. No one cares about getting credit, and that’s huge.”
Pinckney, 4-2 overall, 2-1 in the KLAA, travels to Grand Blanc next week to play in the Bobcats’ homecoming.
“We say that every win makes the next game bigger, and that’s more fun,” Gailitis said. “We want to play in big games. That’s why you play high school football, and we’re excited to go to Grand blanc on their homecoming game and lay it on the line. We’ll ave a ball up there. They always have a great crowd and it’s a blast. I can’t wait.”
For Hartland (1-5), next up is a trip to Brighton for the Bulldogs’ homecoming.
“I told the kids we’re playing for pride,” Savage said. “We’re playing or Hartland, Keep working hard and finish strong.”