Football: River Rats take a giant leap with first playoff win in 20 years

We are all familiar with the famous quote, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” While the Huron football team didn’t land on the moon, they did land in the second round of the playoffs – and considering where they took off from, their win on Friday night was one small step in the playoff picture, but one giant leap for the program.

But let’s focus on the one small step – the playoff victory!

The River Rats hit the road on Friday and returned with a 23-19 win over Kalamazoo Central in a Division 1 playoff opener. It wasn’t just Huron’s first playoff win in 20 years, but only the program’s fourth win overall since Oct. 3, 2014.

Since we are in the history books, it’s important to note that Huron went four seasons and 36 games without a victory. Last season, the first under new coach Antaiwn Mack, the River Rats won their first game to end the losing streak but lost their next eight.

This season has been beyond challenging for everyone, but especially for the River Rats. First, the AA School District delayed the start of football by a week and then the River Rats had to open with Saline. After beating Pioneer, the Huron program was shut down for two weeks following a COVID exposure. Since they only played three games, the MHSAA had to grant the River Rats an exemption to even play in the postseason.

Opportunity given, opportunity taken.

The River Rats headed west and led 16-6 at halftime before Kalamazoo Central scored to take a 19-16 lead early in the third quarter.

“We liked our matchups with our receivers against their secondary and felt like we had the better skilled players so we needed to get the ball in their hands,” Mack said. “We did some good things with our passing game to score and get the lead back.”

The River Rats scored to take a 23-19 lead.

Kalamazoo Central had the ball late in the game, but the River Rats were able to shut the door. “Our defense came up with a big stop to get the ball back,” Mack said.

Huron’s offense then converted a first down and were able to run out the clock to secure the victory and book a date with Saline next Friday in the second round.

Tyson Edmondson and Anthony Pinnace each threw TD passes in the game. Pinnace caught a pair of TD passes and Jalen Mathews caught a TD pass. And Adam Samaha kicked a field goal for the River Rats.

Edmondson summed up how he and his teammates were feeling after the win.

“The game was great,” said Tyson, the senior QB. “It felt amazing getting that first-round district win. We’re now just looking ahead to the next game. I’m really proud of our team and especially the fight our defensive line put up.”

Mack knew it wasn’t go to be easy – but nothing has been easy this season.

“They are a good team with three Division 1 football players, and are a very big and physical football team,” Mack said. “They have a really good running back so we knew we had to stop the run. We also knew we had to get our athletic guys into space and allow them to make plays.

“They brought a lot of pressure and kept us on our toes. We just had to play smart and not turn the ball over and we felt if we did that we could win this game.”

Mack has the River Rats believing they can win football games and that has been no easy task. Huron has come a long way in a short amount of time under their very positive, upbeat and hard-working coach.

“The kids were very excited to win that football game,” Mack said. “They knew it would come down to preparation and execution. We as coaches also had to be prepared and organized because we didn’t want to let these kids down. We had to put together a good game plan in order to win this game. They played with confidence and overcame a lot of things in the game. Even when we got down, they fought back. I’m just very proud of them.”

All photos by Lisa Edmundson

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