Gibsonburg’s stout defense shuts down Warriors

GIBSONBURG –Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense.

Usually, it is the other way around, but Friday, Gibsonburg’s top-notch defense was too much for Mohawk to handle.

The Warriors had just two first downs and 45 yards of offense in a 23-6 non-league setback to the Golden Bears.

“I think it started defensively,” Mohawk coach Eric Daniel said. “Gibsonburg sustained drives. We talked about the key situations. Gibsonburg did not have a lot of big plays on us. Their b\acks were falling forward. We knew it was going to be a war going in.”

Both of the Mohawk (2-1) first downs came on its opening drive. Gibsonburg (3-0) used long drives to continually keep the Warriors off the field.

“Gibsonburg outlasted us,” Daniel said. “They scored in key situations. We just could not get off the field. I don’t know if it is an offensive thing. It is hard to get in a rhythm when you can’t get on the field.”

Mohawk led, 6-0 when Gibsonburg took over with 8:12 left in the second quarter. The Golden Bears put together a 12-play drive that covered 65 yards. Hunter Smith picked up four yards on 4th-and-1 to keep the drive alive and then Smith picked up 12 yards on a pass from Mitch Tille. One play later, Smith burst through the line for a 21-yard scamper. The extra point was no good, and the game was tied.

Gibsonburg opted for a pooch kick on the ensuing kickoff and it was recovered by Radek Fox for the Golden Bears. Gibsonburg immediately got a scoring opportunity after Tille connected with Arriaga for 33 yards. Despite having 1st-and-goal at the Mohawk 4, Gibsonburg settled for a 25-yard field goal by Arriaga, but the Golden Bears had a 9-6 lead at halftime.

“Mohawk is a very talented team and any time you have the tradition that they have had over the last few years, these young kids waited their turn,” Gibsonburg coach Mike Lee said. “They played behind a great group and learned from them. That is a great football team. We played phenomenal tonight.”

Gibsonburg received the second half kickoff and again went to work on the ground. The Golden Bears picked up three first downs, but found themselves facing fourthth-and-6 at the Mohawk 40. Tille remained calm and hit Antonio Villarreal for a 11-yard completion.

Tille followed that up with a 14-yard strike to Theo Hernandez to get to the Mohawk 15. But, the Warriors stiffened and forced a turnover on downs when a pass from Tille fell incomplete.

Despite a nine-plus minute drive by Gibsonburg, the Warriors still trailed by just a field goal, but went three-and-out on their next drive.

The Golden Bears took over on a short field after the punt and again, chugged away at the Mohawk defense. Gibsonburg faced 4th-and-2 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Tille connected with Jon Auld for 11 yards. Later, the Warriors were again within a play of a stop, forcing the Golden Bears into a 4th-and-4 situation. This time, Tille hit his twin brother, Mason Tille in stride for a 14-yard touchdown.

“I threw so much at my kids to prepare them for this team,” Lee said. “They accepted every bit of it. I am so proud of them.”

Hernandez came up with a big interception for Gibsonburg on the next drive, returning it 48 yards to the Mohawk 10. He covered that distance on the next play and suddenly, the lead ballooned to 23-6 with 8:54 left.

Auld intercepted Trey Combs on the next offensive play for Mohawk, but Gibsonburg could not extend the lead. Auld nearly intercepted Combs again on the next play for the Warriors, continuing the offensive woes.

“Sometimes 23-6 is not quite as far away as it seems,” Daniel said. “They handled us in the key situations. I don’t doubt our kids’ effort. Our kids fought, but Gibsonburg out-executed us in key situations.”

The game was delayed for 45 minutes before kickoff due to inclement weather. Once the game started, the Warriors got first downs on a 11-yard run by Jesse Leeth and a eight-yard pass from Combs to Tyler Hayman.

Mohawk went on to punt twice before Hayman recovered a fumble, but that drive ended in a punt. Gibsonburg opened its first drive of the second quarter with a short run before lightning hit the area, forcing the game into a 81-minute weather delay.

“It was a weird night,” Daniel said. “You could use all the excuses in the world. We had fair this week, we didn’t have school today, and then the two lightning delays. At the end of the day, Gibsonburg had to go through the same stuff tonight. They responded and we didn’t.”

Once resumed, Gibsonburg punted, but Mohawk gave it right back on a fumble. On the Golden Bears’ second play, Hayman stepped in front of a pass and took it 75 yards for a touchdown and 6-0 lead.

“I am glad we played them,” Daniel said. “I think we needed that. We needed to go at somebody that is real physical. I think it galvanizes us going into league play.”

Smith, Hernandez, and Auld combined to run 46 times for 177 yards. Tille completed 7-of-12 passes for 102 yards.

“I know the weather had a lot to do with tonight,” Lee said. “They probably did not have their full array of plays, but it is what it is. We played through it.”

Combs connected on just 1-of-9 passes including seven incompletions in the second half. Mohawk ran 16 times for 39 yards.

“Gibsonburg made plays when they needed to on both sides of the ball and we didn’t,” Daniel said. “That is a good team right there. That is a playoff team. I would be stunned if they don’t go 9-1 or 10-0.”