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Niko France's long, last-second touchdown run to beat Trenton was just one exciting component of a thrilling week of football for Downriver fans last season.
FRANK'S COLUMN: What a week of football (PHOTOS)
You can never tell what set of games is going to produce unforgettable memories
As Week 6 of the 2013 football season rolled around, it looked like the set of scheduled Downriver League games wouldn’t generate much excitement.
Already in the books was a much-anticipated heavyweight battle between Roosevelt and Melvindale and still on the horizon for both teams was a matchup with powerhouse Truman.
With that said, Oct. 4 quickly became the most memorable night of the year for me-and I’m sure many local fans feel the same way.
To start, Lincoln Park and Kennedy squared off in Taylor in a battle of 0-5 teams, with the Railsplitters bringing in an ugly, much-publicized 66-game losing streak.
A big night from Lincoln Park running back Jordan Geha sparked his squad and when the game ended the Rails were ahead 34-20.
The field was quickly awash in orange and blue, as fans rushed out to celebrate their team’s first win in more than seven seasons. Soon after, MTV announced it would finally air the reality show it filmed about the 2011 Rails; “Wait ‘Til Next Year.”
My assignment that week was to cover a game at Trenton between the Trojans and Woodhaven; two young teams that came in with identical 2-3 records.
Throughout the night I watched an intense, back-and-forth battle that led to a 24-24 tie late in the game.
With just a few seconds left, the Warriors had the ball on their own 37-yard line. At that point, many teams would have just run out the clock and gone into overtime, but Woodhaven had other ideas.
Quarterback Niko France took the snap, tucked it away and quickly took off down the right sideline. Following blocks and dodging defenders, the speedy junior suddenly found himself in the end zone-with no time left on the clock-and the purple-and-white-clad players and fans celebrated a 30-24 victory together.
Also notable about the contest was that it was a showcase of several players from both sides who will likely return as stars of the gridiron in 2014.
In addition to France, Woodhaven players such as Jake Przybylo, Mark Dixon and Maurice Witherspoon will all be back to help lead their squad. From the Trojans, names like Christian Mercure, Brady Tanguay, Max Holden and Conor Cunningham will probably be heard a lot next year on a team that will have quite a bit of potential.
As Woodhaven and Trenton were squaring off, I found out that a DRL upset was brewing about 11 miles to the north in Allen Park in a game between the Jaguars and first-place Truman.
With a perfect 5-0 record, and standouts such as Devontae McCuien and Devonte McGregor leading the way, the Cougars brought their seemingly unstoppable offense and stingy defense to town.
On that evening, however, a 3-2 Allen Park squad wasn’t scared and had no intention of backing down.
When it was all said and done, the Jags had edged out the Cougars 21-14, helped out by a huge night on defense from Adam McJunkin and two touchdown throws from quarterback Nick Fulton to Antonio Reviere.
For Truman, it was only the fourth time in 21 games the program had suffered a defeat, dating back to Week 6 of 2011.
As Allen Park was in the process of upsetting the Cougars, only three miles away a 2-3 Carlson squad was close to doing the same thing at Melvindale.
The Cardinals were 4-1 and their lone defeat was a 17-10 decision at Roosevelt, but after three quarters against the Marauders, the otherwise high-flying group was only up 14-7.
Defensively, Carlson’s Doug Bunea and Jared Henson combined for 19 tackles and two interceptions, which helped slow down the red-and-white offensive machine, led by quarterback Jason Doyle and receiver Malik Boynton.
Unfortunately for the Marauders, their tough effort eventually fell short, as Melvindale pulled away with two unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
In the fifth and final DRL contest of the night, Roosevelt crushed visiting Anderson 52-0.
While the contest between the Bears and improved Titans lacked any suspense, the game was still significant in that the victory clinched Roosevelt’s eighth consecutive playoff berth.
The Bears were the first team to win six games in 2013 and never missed the postseason under head man Ron Adams, who announced his resignation after the season.
When looking back now at Week 6 of the football season, I think it showed just how much heart and character most of our local Downriver athletes really have.
It would have been easy for a squad like Lincoln Park to just accept another defeat after so many years of losing, or for the underdogs to just lean on the excuse of being inexperienced or outgunned.
On the other side, Melvindale or Truman players could have started doubting themselves or Roosevelt could have rested on its laurels.
None of that happened.
Instead we saw our young athletes giving everything they had every week until the final whistle.
While that particular Friday night of football stands out most for me, I’ve seen countless examples of extraordinary effort in every sport during the short time I’ve been at The News-Herald.
Now as we head into 2014, I look forward to what this year will bring us on the Downriver gridirons, basketball courts, wrestling mats, soccer fields, bowling alleys, baseball diamonds and everywhere else.
Last Updated: 1/3/2014 1:53:02 PM EST