On a night when an undefeated Muskegon Heights football team was coming to town, the Ludington did not let that dissuade it from moving the offense and striking first with a touchdown with 6:23 remaining of the first quarter.
It eventually led to a 41-12 victory for the Orioles against the Tigers Friday night at Oriole Field in what will be the final Lakes 8 Activities Conference contest for Ludington.
The Orioles scored on an 11-play drive that chewed up a good chunk of the clock and culminated in a 7-yard touchdown run by Stephen Weinert.
The touchdown was set up on the play prior, when quarterback Trey Forfinski had a nice run for a first down when he weaved in and out of the Heights defenders.
Miles Wilson added the point after and the Orioles had a 7-0 lead and never looked back.
It was as if the confidence of the team could be seen, after all, they were executing their offense well against a 4-0 opponent, said Ludington coach Charlie Gunsell.
”Confidence is everything with high school kids, I don’t care what you’re doing, football, basketball, baseball, in the classroom; if you’re confident, you’re going to perform better,” Gunsell said.
The Tigers did not waste time responding to the Orioles’ score. During the next drive, the Heights’ offense, led by senior Ja’Kari Edwards, marched the ball down the field, starting at the Ludington 39 yard line.
Eight plays later, the Tigers scored when Edwards faked an initial pass, set up in the pocket with lots of time, and then threw to senior Ashton Smith for the 13-yard touchdown pass. The two point conversion attempt, intended for Darice Totten, was incomplete and the Orioles retained the lead, 7-6.
Ludington scored again in the second quarter, with only 19 seconds remaining on the clock when Stephen Weinert ran for 11 yards and a touchdown. The unsuccessful two point conversion run left the Orioles’ lead at 13-6 going into halftime.
Ludington started the third quarter by scoring at 9:57 on the clock when Forfinski ran for a 25-yard touchdown, and Miles Wilson added the point after kick for a 20-6 Oriole lead.
At the 5:20 mark, Forfinski threw to Nathan Gilchrist for a 55-yard touchdown and again, Wilson added the point after. The Orioles’ confidence was building, along with the lead, now at 27-6.
The third and final score of the third quarter came with 10 seconds on the clock when Forfinski punched the ball in from the one yard line for the touchdown, and Wilson was golden with the point after kick and a 34-6 lead.
The Tigers, showing their speed and tenacity, came back in the fourth quarter and added a touchdown on a 3-yard run by Edwards. The two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, but the Heights cut the Orioles’ lead to 34-12.
The Orioles last score of the night came at the 3:04 mark in the fourth quarter when Stephen Weinert carried the ball for a 15-yard touchdown. Wilson added the point after kick and the final score was set at 41-12.
The Orioles and Tigers had similar stats for number of plays, 56 to 57, but the total offense off those plays was a 145 yard difference. Ludington had 382 yards total offense to Muskegon Heights 237 yards.
”If you have those types of numbers, it means your offensive line is doing their job,” Gunsell said.
The Tigers’ completed only 7-of-29 attempts for 90 yards, while the Orioles completed 4-of-8 passing for 76 yards.
The Orioles ran the ball for 306 yards on 48 attempts to the Heights’ 147 yards on 28 attempts. Both teams had six penalties on the night, although the Orioles lost 65 yards as a result.
Ludington intercepted the Tigers four times during the game and won the possession battle, 28:02 to 19:33. Ludington had 23 first downs in the game to Muskegon Heights’ 19.
”Our secondary was pretty incredible tonight,” said Gunsell.
Leading the Orioles in rushing were Forfinski with 181 yards on 26 attempts and Stephen Weinert had 125 yards on 20 attempts. The Heights was led by Edwards, rushing for 56 yards on 11 attempts.
Aidan Gilchrist, Gage Jones, and Aric Storm all led Ludington on defense with five solo tackles. “I’m proud of our defensive staff as I thought they put together a good plan that enabled us to win,” added Gunsell.
”It felt like we matched pretty well with them. I know they were 4-0 but we saw some things on film we thought we could do and the kids did an excellent job executing,” Gunsell said.
With the win, the Orioles move to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the Lakes 8 Activities Conference. Muskegon Heights is 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the conference. Ludington will play non-conference games for the remainder of the season. The Orioles join the West Michigan Conference for 2021-22.
Ludington will enjoy the win for the weekend and then start preparation for next week when they play at 7 p.m., Friday, at Whitehall.