GRAND BLANC -Hartland quarterback Noah Marshall wasn’t at his best on Friday night.
But even a limited Marshall can be good enough, as the three-year varsity starter played only the second and fourth quarters, but still came through in a 30-27 overtime win for the Eagles over Grand Blanc.
With the win, the Eagles (5-2 overall, 4-1 KLAA West) secured a piece of the KLAA West for the third time in four years. They finished the season tied with Brighton, but will play in the Lakes Conference title game next week at Walled Lake Western, which won the KLAA North title. The Eagles owned the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs thanks to a 14-7 win on Oct. 3.
“This means a lot for me personally and the program and everyone,” Marshall said. “We’ve had ambitions about this since the beginning of the year and we’ve been saying, ‘It’s playoff mode.’ We really took it to heart and that’s what it was, the team came together.”
For the first and third quarters, Marshall remained on the sideline. He finally went in early in the second, but was mostly ineffective before emerging from halftime and returning to the bench in the third.
Coach Brian Savage said it was because Marshall had been banged up and missed much of the week in practice. Therefore, he wanted to ensure his quarterback’s health going forward.
“He was a little sore from last week,” Savage said. “It was a physical game last weekvand he was a little bit banged up here and there. He didn’t get healthy until midweek, and we felt Brad (Ekonen’s) done a great job all year and he got in there and did a great job.”
Marshall returned in the fourth, and on the Eagles’ first offensive play he raced 82 yards to the end zone for a go-ahead score. His team had previously fallen behind, 14-10, after a 3-yard TD run by Grand Blanc’s Kullen Jamieson.
“Oh yeah,” said Marshall when asked if he was letting off some frustration. “I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever run in my life.”
The Hartland lead wouldn’t last for long, however, as the Eagles elected to go for it on a crucial fourth-and-3 from the Grand Blanc 13, rather than attempt what would’ve been a 30-yard field goal.
Instead, the Bobcats’ defense held, and Grand Blanc took the lead with an incredible 54-yard throw from Zach Leedom to Blake Bogan for the go-ahead score.
At that point, only 1 minute and 13 seconds remained and things looked dim for Hartland.
However, Marshallmade up for lost time.
With 33 seconds left, he found Jack Slavinwide open across the middle. Slavin took it 57 yards to the end zone for a game-tying score that sent the Eagles sideline into a frenzy.
Slavin’s score forced overtime. The overtime period would be quick.
The Eagles defense kept Grand Blanc to a field goal, giving Marshall and the offense a chance to the end game. On the first play from the 10-yard line, that’s exactly what they did.
They went to a play-action play, and Marshall threw to R.J. Bortle for the 10-yard score. It was Marshall’s second touchdown pass of the night.
Slavin also rushed for 101 yards, while Marshall ran for 104 yards and threw for 124 more.
“It’s a tribute to these guys,” Savage said. “They were freshmen when we all got here as coaches and they all got into the program and it’s paid off.”