BURTON — First the Montabella Mustangs set a school record for most wins in a season with eight. Then they earned the school’s first ever football playoff victory on Saturday.
The Mustangs dominated the second half of a 38-22 victory over Burton Bendle in the first round of the MHSAA football playoffs.
“There is not doubt that this is a huge win for our program,” Montabella coach David Clay said. “This is the first playoff win in school history.”
The Mustangs jumped out to a lead on the first possession of the game. They scored just 3:04 into the game on a five-yard touchdown catch by Jemikal Papendick from Charley Helmer. Papendick also scored the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
“We knew coming in that Bendle was going to be very physical. We had to get up and that’s why we elected to take the ball,” Clay said. “We wanted to try and get up early on them. I think we got the momentum early.”
Bendle got on the board for the first time with 8:39 to go in the second quarter on a 17-yard catch by Tyler Joslin to pull within 8-7.
Bendle took their only lead of the game following a Mustangs turnover. With 2:51 left in the half, DJ Haskins ran in a score to give the Tigers a 14-8 advantage.
After a second Montabella turnover, the Mustangs’ defense held the Tigers to a punt, setting up a dramatic half ending score.
Starting from the 39-yard line, the Mustangs used a 27-yard catch by Jeramee Gilman on fourth down to get inside the 10. With no time remaining Papendick caught his second touchdown from Helmer along with a two-point conversion for a 16-14 halftime lead.
“We felt we could score when we need to,” Papendick said. “The big thing was just our defense stopping them. We went into halftime with a lot of momentum.”
Montabella kept things rolling with an early second half half interception by Jonny Durham. During the interception Durham fumbled, but the ball was recovered by the Mustangs’ Logan Burns.
The Mustangs used a 7:20 drive to open a 24-14 lead on a two-yard run by Burns and a two-point conversion by Papendick.
Montabella scored again on a 31-yard catch by Papendick. The conversion failed, but the Mustangs led 30-14 just 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Bendle kept fighting and scored less than a minute later to pull within one possession at 30-22.
Montabella responded with a seven-minute drive capped off by a quarterback sneak by Helmer with just 3:53 remaining in the game. Burns scored on a two-point run for a 38-22 lead.
Burns sealed the victory with an interception down the sideline on the Tigers’ next possession.
Papendick credited the offensive line for their play.
“The line was all fired up. That is the best they played all year long,” he said. “When they are playing good we can almost do anything we want. It all starts there.”
Helmer finished the game 13-for-18 passing for 169 yards. Papendick had six catches for 66 yards and Travis Dunn had three catches for 30 yards.
On the ground, Burns rushed for 66 yards on 18 carries while Derek Martin had 67 yards on 13 carries.
Montabella (9-1) will now face Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central (9-0) on the road Friday night at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to the Division 7 regional final.